Long-range trips: Our little area here on the gulf coast is not well known for incredible blue-water fishing. But it should be. There are plenty of incredible fish out there for those who have the boat and crew to get to the edge of the shelf. Some of these fish include blue and white marlin, swordfish, huge mahimahi, wahoo and big yellowfin tuna.
What's involved: These trips require big tackle, a big boat and lots of planning. A 200-pound blue marlin can easily take 400 yards on its initial run. The larger boat helps if the wind changes direction and runs up against the loop current, which can make the seas a little angry. Also, some of these trips will span two or more days, fishing well more than 150 miles offshore. So a little comfort is nice. The planning should involve not only locations on where the fish might be, but safety equipment, lures and baits.
Location: We use two Web sites to figure out where fish might be, roffs.com and realtime-navigator.com They will assist you in finding temperature breaks, blue water and even salinity contents.
Bite right now: The best bite now is at an area known as the Steps, roughly 140 miles to the west of Tampa Bay. Water depths on the east side will be 1,000 to 1,100 feet. Running west from there, you will find a fast drop-off in depth. Some areas will drop to more than 5,000 feet in fewer than 10 miles. The deepest parts of the area will be more than 2 miles.
Capt. Steve Papen operates Fintastic Charters and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 or fintasticinc.com.