Fishermen are always looking for that silver bullet: a bait that will have fish opening wide no matter how tight their previous lockjaw. But such a magic bait just doesn’t exist-or does it? Slow-trolled or live-lined flying fish can tempt tunas and billfish almost all the time. But where do you find spunky, live flying fish? They’re not a mainstay in most tackle shops. Solution? Get them on your own; all you need are some powerful lights, a long-handled dip net, and a livewell.
Flying fish are best caught at night, when they sometimes swim into lights set overboard. This past season I discovered that they seemed particularly attracted to green fluorescent light ($15 to $200; submersible greens are available from Cabela’s, 800/237-4444; and Bass Pro Shops, 800/227-7776, www.basspro.com). When the flying fish swim into the light, use a 10′ long-handled dip net to scoop them up head first and drop them right into the livewell. Rigging is simple-a 4/0-to-8/0 live bait hookup through the bottom jaw and out through the top jaw does the trick.
Slow troll your live flying fish along the usual fish-attracting features such as weed lines, temperature breaks, or bottom contours. Don’t go too fast-these baits are relatively delicate and 3 or 4 mph is all they can stand. Don’t put out too many lines at once either, because they take to flight when being stalked, and a single fish flying over six or eight lines can create a huge tangle. When a predator strikes the flying fish, go to freespool and let it eat for several seconds. Then lock up the reel and start fighting.
Remember that at night you’ll often have squid come into your lights. Dip these, too, because they make another incredible live bait-and prove to be a tasty treat when the dead stuff gets ignored.