Although small fish will feed on larger baitfish, they prefer certain sizes over others. As a young man I had the experience of working on Party Boats, what we called Day Fishing Boats. I was not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. I was the grunt who get your fish, untangle the lines, put your fish in a numbered sac, and scrubbed up the boat on the way home. A great job for a young man growing up. Long days, outside work, and lots of fishing. What more could you ask for? I'm sure the free fish was a real budget pleaser for my mother as I had a good appetite. Our boat had two important people aboard. The captain who got you there and back, and the chumuer who got you and kept you into fish. This was way before the days of sonar so the captain had to know his business. The chummer bought and negotiated a price, stocked the tanks and kept the pumps working to keep the fish alive. We bought whatever was available. Sometimes it was sparse depending on the bait fisherman's luck. At times they had Anchovies, Herring, Perch, Smelt, Flying Fish, Squid and Mackerel. One thing I do remember is that the chummer was always wanting the smaller anchovies which he referred to as "Pinheads", and as it was explained to me why he thought these were so important.
1. You got more fish for your money.
2. Pinheads were more active and could excite the fish better than the larger bait which tended to sound or dive when they hit the water. The smaller ones stayed on top of the water's surface.
When we couldn't get them, and we only had the 6 to 8 inchers it meant a harder and sometimes slower fishing day. Sometimes there was no live bait and we had to fish fresh salted anchovies. This was really tough fishing. But if you had a good captain, and we did, he always got fish no matter what. The smaller baitfish hung around some type of structure such as kelp paddies, and floating debris, where they could hide. One most memorable day we were underway when we happened on to a floating 1 x 12 about 10 feet long just bobbing in the water. The captain slowed down and announced over the PA system, "let's see if anyone's home". This was his pitch while looking for fish. He circled the board, the chummer started throwing pinheads at the board, a couple of anglers started throwing iron jigs out and all of a sudden both jigs were hooked up and the frenzy began. We fished by that board for six straight hours until everyone had limited out with yellowtail. Even the bad fisherman and the kids were maxed out. This routine when on day after day until the captain finally retired and sold the boat many years later.
My experience is mostly limited to the Southern Pacific current and within 2 to 4 miles from shore. Although I have fished plenty of other areas this range is pretty shallow and limited to fish from 3 to 25 pounds with averages in the 5 to 18 pound range. Depending on weather and water temperatures we found much the same fish species. Anything larger was considered deep-sea or long range overnight fishing. Our trip started at 4:30 AM and got back at 5 to 6pm. Our variety of fish included Bonito, Yellowtail, Barracuda, Mackerel, Calico, Sand and Sea Bass, and smaller Yellow Fin Tuna. I don't know if you have ever witnessed what we called a "Bite" or not. But it is when a school of fish begin feeding. If it is a fair sized school, it becomes an absolute frenzy. The seabirds and Gulls show up and the entire boat of 25 to 30 anglers are all hooked up at the same time. When this takes place, the fish are no longer selective and will strike it anything. I have even caught fish on a Juicy Fruit gum wrapper on a barbed hook, and that's why I created my bait fish fly. All you have to do is get it in the water and you are hooked. In a coastal fishing "Bite", the pinhead or smaller flies work exceptionally well. I know that these fish stray in the shallower water, and preferred to be near some type of structure where they can hide their profile. My experience with the Eastern Bluefish was exactly the same as are our Western Bonito. Everything gets bit, all it one time and non-selectivity with the smaller ones first.
So look again what I've been doing to accommodate the Size Matters issue. I think I've got it pretty well covered...
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