Spadefish schooling up on reefs along coast

Captain J Baisch of Fishfull Thinking shows off a spadefish of average size

There’s rarely a sure thing in saltwater fishing, but it’s a safe bet that the spadefish are biting this June. Reports from up and own the coast signal that not only are spadefish plentiful this year, but some big ones are in the mix.

Captain J Baisch of Fishfull Thinking Guide Service in Murrell’s Inlet shared some spadefish wisdom.

“The weather has been hot and dry, and that translates into calm sea conditions,” said Baisch. “This makes the run to my Margaritaville Hole much more pleasant, and I can usually see the spadefish in the water before I start fishing for them.”

Not one to pass up an opportunity, the first hook baited after arriving at his spot is ready for a cobia.

“The cobia like to spend time with the spadefish for whatever reason, and when they feel the vibration from my twin engines, they sometimes come to the boat to take a look.” Baisch said.

On the way to the fishing grounds, Baisch slowed the boat long enough to pick up cannonball jellyfish out of the ocean with his dip net. Fifteen jellyballs were all that was needed for a half-day of fishing for spadefish.

“I like to take a clotheshanger and make it into a circle and attach a couple of weights and one jellyball, to serve as a teaser,” said Baisch.

Why just one jellyball at a time?

“One jellyball will hold the attention of a school of spades long enough for anglers to get a hook into a couple of them,” he said. “The feeding fish inadvertently knock the jellyball when they rush it and sometimes it falls off, and when it does you can see the school drift off with that jellyball.”

“We are using circle hooks for spadefish now to comply with the ruling for snapper/grouper complex species protection,” Baisch said. “Cut a small strip of the red skirt form the jelly ball and put it on the hook. There isn’t a wrong way to put it on there, just wait for a bite, and give it a good hookset.”

Generally once a spadefish is hooked up, it will dive straight down, looking for cover on the bottom, and the angler’s job is to stop it.

Spadefish can provide some great light-tackle, drag-screaming action. When you consider that the bait is often easy to find and in plentiful supply, which makes the trip all the more enjoyable. Remember to keep your teaser depth where you can keep an eye on it, because spadefish schools are constantly up and down and anglers need to keep a lookout and stay ready to spot fish movement.

For a video of Capt. J Baisch explaining how the circle hooks work on spadefish, and for more photos of spadefish, visit the offshore fishing forum.

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