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Offshore is on!

1/19/2010

If you haven't noticed, it's been cold. Real cold.

I mean, it was even cold down here in Key West. So much so that tarpon and bonefish died. I've had buddies tell me they've seen bonefish floating along the flats because it's so cold.

Tarpon are pretty dumb when it comes down to it. Rather than seek deeper, warmer water, they stay shallow and risk dying. A lot have been floating around the marinas. Bummer.

The upswing? Offshore fishing is great!

I took a trip out the other day with my old man, Greg Holeman, and two captains, Greg Sage and Bill Houze. We had a blast. We bagged several tuna (including a few keepers), and even a sailfish. My dad hooked the biggest tuna of the day, a 30-pounder, but he was so whipped after fighting it he couldn't get it close enough to gaff.

When it was just outside of gaffing distance, a big shark came along and got himself a nice sushi dinner. Arguments ensued, blame was laid, but all was good. After all, he had been catching bonito for a couple hours straight.

Most of the tuna were 20- to 25 pounds. When you cross that 30-pound threshold, it's like a whole different fish. They get mean. That was his first offshore trip in about 10 years, so he (and we) had a blast.

I'm heading up to New Orleans in a few days for a few redfish trips, but I'm really not looking forward to it. Travis (my brother and captain out of New Orleans) said it was pretty slow.

Anyhow, here's how we did it.

Bear's what's working where: Offshore
If you can find 'em, tuna are the ticket this month. Look for frigate birds above the water or structure on your graph.

We were in about 200 feet of water, but I have a buddy who just fished a sailfish tournament and his best bite was in 1,700 feet. That sounds like it's pretty far off, but it's not really. We could still see Key West when we were catching tuna.

Get out a few miles and start looking for birds diving or structure on the bottom. If you see tuna popping, chum a bit with pilchards then slip a hook in one and toss it out with the rest. You'll be hooked up and have a full freezer in no time.

We were catching them on old Penn spinning reels and offshore rods with 12-pound-test monofilament. They eat better when you use light line.

Editor's note: Capt. Bryan Holeman is a competitor on the Redfish Cup, and guides out of Key West, Fla. Known affectionately as "Bear," Holeman and his clients enjoy year-round success on the flats surrounding Key West, making his insight to flats fishing invaluable to anglers everywhere. Bear's goal with his blog is to inform, inspire and entertain with weekly updates detailing his activities, be it guiding or tales from the RFC tournament trail.