Fishing the Edge

A logistical approach to planning a big game fishing adventure.
Capt. Jack Sprengel

The Northeast canyons offer some of the best fishing on the planet.
A large factor for determining your success, however, is often the result of what you've done before you even hit the water. The first and most important of these steps is gathering the proper intelligence. Next you need to determine the amount of resources needed. Finally, you'll want to assemble the proper crew and equipment necessary to carry out the operation safely and efficiently.
Heading way offshore is not a cheap endeavor. Before you go, you need to determine whether or not it's even worth planning a trip in the first place. Captains should work together, and share info with a reliable network of local anglers for accurate and up-to-date reports. It's this type of advantage that will often determine who has the better result.
It's important to check data from a detailed SST (Sea Surface Temperature) chart such as those found right here on FishTrack to find sharp temperature breaks and warm-water eddies. Other important factors like water clarity can also influence the movements of large game fish and their prey. Without this type of available information, a captain is taking a shot in the dark, literally relying on luck to locate fish.
A subscription to FishTrack will drastically reduce the amount of fuel burned to determine a starting point as you try to find the fish. You'll also need to check the weather forecast and sea conditions for the days before, of and up to two days after the planned date. is by far the most accurate marine weather tool I've found.
Knowing these conditions will determine the feasibility of the trip based on the limitations of your vessel and crew. Once you've determined that you'll have a reasonable weather window and favorable conditions, you'll need to anticipate and stock up on supplies.
There are three major resources you don't want to run out of -- fuel, food and ice.
Getting towed back from the canyons costs about $10,000, so fuel consumption is a factor you'll want to predict very accurately. When determining your vessel's maximum fuel range use the rule of thirds - one-third to get there, one-third for fishing and the return ride to port and finally a reserve of one-third. Planning your trip to the extremes of your vessel's range is an open invitation for disaster.
The next thing you'll want to stock up on is food and drinks. Make sure that you and the crew stay hydrated and energized with the increased workload. Bring enough food for the fish as well if you plan to chum and deploy cut baits. (Watching a sonar screen full of yellowfin tuna disappear because you decided to omit that last flat of butterfish - not priceless!)
The last of the big three to stock up on is ice.  The crew that I fish with always takes a simple approach -- load up on as much ice as necessary, then double it! Having enough ice and fish storage on your vessel is the sole determining factor as to whether or not you return to port with delicious table fare or cat food.
So you've got the green light and stocked up on the basics, now it's time to rally the troops and prepare the equipment. When fishing the canyons, your safety equipment takes on a whole new meaning. This gear is not something you only keep onboard in case you get checked by the Coast Guard. When fishing 60 or 90 miles from port, your safety depends on how you prepare your vessels and what you've decided to bring in case something goes wrong.
I've always believed in the credo that it's better to have too much too soon, then to have too little too late. In addition to the minimum USCG safety requirements, I'd strongly suggest investing in a good life raft, EPIRB and satellite phone and remember to inspect them regularly. Remember, once you're out there, you're the only one you can count on, so when in doubt, bring it!
Almost as important as the equipment itself, is fishing with the proper crew. Bring a team that can fish well and handle an emergency situation and secure the safe return of the vessel should some unforeseen circumstance render the captain incapable of performing his or her duties. It's also a good idea to tell someone on shore of your estimated waypoint and when you expect to return home.
Finally, review all of your equipment, both fishing gear and that of your vessel. Be sure that anything headed off shore with you has been cared for properly, is stocked adequately and is in working order. It's a long awkward ride home if a pertinent piece of gear becomes additional ballast, you run out of something or worse yet, you forget to bring it in the first place!
If you've taken the time to follow each of these steps, gathering the essential intel, stocking up on supplies, and preparing the right crew and equipment, give the forecast one more glance and enjoy a successful trip to the edge.

If you want to land big yellowfin tuna in the Northeast Canyons, you better do your homework. The first step is researching the Sea Surface Temperatures and finding a good starting off point. Photos courtesy of Capt. Jack Sprengel.
A successful fishing trip is often determined by the things you do before you ever leave the dock. Go through the boat and make sure all of the safety gear and systems are working flawlessly. Then test all of your fishing tackle and replace anything that is not totally up to snuff. Finally, make sure to fish with a good crew who can get you home safely should something unforeseen go down.
Ice is one of your most precious commodities on a long-range canyon fishing trip. Bring as much ice as you can carry. It's a long run home and you don't want your catch to go bad, or have to leave during a good bite because you're ice supply is just about spent.
Make sure to bring enough bait and chum for chunking if you will be spending the night offshore. There are no bait shops out here.
It's always a good idea to have a well-rounded supply of tackle for various fishing situations. If you feel like switching things up, bring some gear to make a few drops for some golden tilefish.

Save time and fuel with the FishTrack app.