It’s quite amazing when you look at it really, every time you see an article on bottom fishing, the author starts with the following intro. ‘I would just like to start by saying….’ It’s almost like he’s covering his a%s before someone kaks him out. There are many magazines that are scared to hit this subject head on and it’s not just magazines, its people too. Every person I speak to is very tight lipped about whether they bottom fish or not, how to bottom fish, what to use when bottom fishing etc etc. We all know this is a tender subject and it’s a very delicate ecosystem down there, so all the more reason to do these articles on a more regular basis. I know I’m going to take some flack from some guys but you know what, shying away from a problem in hope that it will sort itself out, never helped anyone. An article telling guys to stop bottom fishing won’t help, they won’t stop, but giving the fisherman the most powerful tool of all, knowledge, will. So, the point of this two part series is to teach you guys how to target these fish successfully and in a way that will have the least amount of affect on the fish and the ecosystem they live in. So here goes… First of all, let’s start with the trace. I am going to run through a basic bottom trace with you that you can adjust and play around with as you wish. First of all, you are going to need the following tackle to start proceedings. A rod with a strong backbone, preferably an 18 to 20kg rod with a nice soft/medium tip to absorb the head-knocks of a Daga. The rod must be, for a jetski and kayak no more than 7ft and for a ski boat can be anywhere from 7ft6 to 8ft long. The reel of choice would be a 9inch KP Wagon Wheel stacked with either 60 to 80 pound boat braid and 80 pound leader or 70 pound monofilament line. You will need no smaller than an 8/0 circle hook with a number 2/0 crane combi swivel or a powerful three way swivel, an 8 to 10 ounce sinker depending on the current and some glow beads which you will place at the base of hook for added attraction. To catch bait you’ll need a few packs of sabiki jigs and a 4 to 6 ounce sinker and the recommended live bait will be shad, mackerel, maasbunker or a pinky. What I normally do is if I’m fishing monofilament line(not braid), I will attach the main line to the swivel and then the sinker line will be directly below the main line on lighter line, maybe 30 pound, so that if the sinker snags on something at least I’ll only lose the sinker and not the fish and trace. Then the hook snoot goes on the part of the swivel that lies to the side (only evident on crane swivels), the line used for the hook snoot must be at least 10 pounds heavier than your main line. The sinker snoot must be a metre long and the hook snoot must about a metre and a half to two metres long. When hooking on the live bait, make sure you thread the hook through the hard part of the livebait’s nose or through the nostrils. I spoke to Bruce Mann from ORI with regards to tackle and what tackle we can use that will have the least affect on the fish and or the ecosystem and he had this to say: My suggestion is to fish with barbless hooks which makes it much easier to release the fish (and if swallowed tends to come out much quicker). If you know you are going to be releasing the fish you catch, then use a large, barbless, circle hooks as these are seldom swallowed and very easy to remove from the fish’s mouth. Also if fishing in water deeper than 20m have a rod or rope rigged up for releasing fish back down to the bottom as quickly as possible. This trace is ideal for basic bottom fishing and can be adjusted according to the fish you are targeting. This trace is perfect for Daga Salmon and Geelbek. To get more info on these species and how important it is to take care of them we once again asked Bruce for his input: • Daga - In KZN the legal limits for Dusky Kob/Daga Salmon for offshore boat-based fishing are a minimum size of 40cm TL, a bag limit of 5 fish per person per day and a limit of only 1 fish over 110 cm TL per person per day (in the Eastern and Western Cape the minimum legal size is 50cm TL). For conservation conscious anglers I would suggest that they use a minimum size of 60cm (as it is for shore and estuary anglers) and that they do not keep any fish over 110 cm TL. These large fish are our breeding stock and by returning any big Daga you are effectively investing in the future! However, these big fish must be handled carefully and returned to depth as quickly as possible using a weighted down-rigger system in order to maximize their chance of survival. • Geelbek - The current minimum size limit for Geelbek is 60cm TL and the bag limit is 2 fish per person per day. My suggestion is stick to the regulations, there is no need for a recreational angler to keep more than two Geelbek per angler per day. With the current shark predation problem off the KZN coast, anglers can seldom land more than 1 or 2 Geelbek before being taxed. Remember that by continuing to fish for Geelbek when there are lots of sharks around is effectively killing good, healthy Geelbek and losing your expensive tackle in the process. My suggestion is move away and find another shoal away from the sharks if you have not yet caught your bag limit. Please remember that most bottom fish are extremely slow growing, some only a kg per year, so if you catch an 18kg fish you would be holding approximately an 18year old fish. It is for this reason that with continued overfishing we can set this ecosystem into a downward spiral very quickly and in an extreme case send the stocks into a state where there’ll be too few fish to recover. We need to take care of them, if you target these fish do so with care, learn to bring them up at a slow pace so they don’t suffer too badly from baro trauma and if they do, learn the technique used to send them back down correctly, check out this link and learn how www.youtube.com/watch?v=oB6oNolIq8g . Use the tackle and processes mentioned by Bruce and enjoy these fish. Lets practice conservative angling with these fish and lets help take them out of their dire situation. Next issue we’ll go over traces for Copper Steenbras, where these fish sit on the reefs and a little more info on how we can make a difference to conserving these amazing slow swimming brutes of the deep.