Trolling techniques can be as simple as tossing out a lure behind the boat while running across any body of water to high-tech downrigger setups for northern fish like salmon, musky, or walleye.
Off-shore big game fishing for marlin, sailfish, Dorado, and kingfish usually is a trolling game. Although trolling is not my cup of tea it does produce fish. No other angling method covers more water, which means more fish see your offering.
Try slow trolling a plug, like a large Rapala X-Rap, along the edges of our many miles of canal systems for a whopper snook this fall, especially at night. Rigging for trolling can be simple to complex and many books are available on the subject. Two fish that are the target of trollers in this area are kingfish and grouper.
Capt. George Tunison
Capt. Roy Bennett of Hot One II Charters is an expert grouper troller. He shares his setups for grouper trolling.
An eight-foot leader of 100-pound test non-fluorocarbon mono unless the water is very clear (especially during the winter months). He attaches the leader to his spool of 80-pound test braided line. He trolls at 3-4 mph and will test the plug running right alongside his boat to watch the action, depending on whether he's running with or against the current.
He fishes his plugs fairly close to the boat, usually within 100 feet. The farther out you let the plug the deeper it will dive. He likes to get as close to the bottom as he can without fouling it.
Checking his plugs frequently for any weeds that will interfere with the plug's action, he often says, "Fish know their food doesn't swim around with weeds on them."
He also uses rod holder inserts for his gunnel rod holders that leave his rods sitting parallel with the water. This way his rod isn't standing vertically taking away a lot of the depth for his plugs. These inserts also have lanyards that should be attached to the loops on the top of your reels or if your reel doesn't have the loops, then any part of the reel that is handy will suffice.
Capt. Bennett likes the Mann's Stretch 25 plugs in yellow/green in bright sunlight and the darker black/gray on cloudy days. If you choose to troll water deeper than 35 feet, you can use a #2 planer or even a spool of Monel soft wire line in 45-pound test. These will get your lures down deeper.
Another tried and true method, though a lot more expensive, involves the use of downriggers. My most recently caught large fish, a 29-pound cobia, hit my yellow/green Mann's plug on a downrigger.
Some things that most successful trolling anglers have in common is the ability to fully understand and interpret an underwater map and usually are experts in reading a good graph depth finder. Many folks don't realize that the Gulf floor is somewhat featureless, and in some cases looks like a flat underwater desert.
Fish both shallow and deep are attracted to structure, such as underwater rockpiles, ledges, reefs and manmade structures like towers or bridge pilings.
When musky fishing in Canada, I would spend hours studying underwater lake or river maps before I ever left the States looking for likely holding spots for fish during that particular time of year.
Local publications like The Nautical Mile lists the GPS coordinates for several nearshore and offshore reefs that are good for trolling over and around.
While you are running offshore to your favorite reef, keep a sharp eye on your graph looking for ledges or wrecks or reefs that no one else has found. Immediately punch these numbers in your GPS as you may have found your own private honey hole that you can return to for years.
Most offshore anglers would rather cut off a finger before giving away their "secret GPS hotspot numbers."
Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.