Deep Sea Fishing: The Ultimate Guide

Deep Sea Fishing: The Ultimate Guide

Deep sea fishing is for the enthusiast looking for an adventure outside the confines of their traditional fishing experience. This fishing excursion requires more planning and details than a day out fishing on the lake. Those hoping to embark on their first (or next) deep sea fishing trip will want to do a little research to guarantee a successful trip.

Read on for an all-inclusive guide to fishing in the deeper waters. 

What Is Deep Sea Fishing?

We can infer from the name that deep sea fishing requires venturing into deep waters, accessible by boat. But just how deep are we talking?

For fishing to qualify as “deep sea,” the water must reach a depth of 100 feet at minimum. Anything less than that would technically be “offshore fishing,” which is between 50 and 100-foot deep waters.

Deep-sea fishers leave the view of the sandy beach behind in search of different species of fish that live offshore. These fish found offshore are generally larger and more valuable — rockfish, halibut, and yellowtail are as elusive as they are enchanting.

Besides the fish type, deep-sea fishers venture offshore for larger catches. Depending on where you go, trips can last all day or be a brief half-day affair. 

History of Deep Sea Fishing

Now that we have established some guidelines as to what qualifies as deep sea fishing, let’s take a look at where this practice originated.

Shore fishing has been an avenue for gathering and supplying food that dates back to the earliest human civilizations. Deep sea fishing would come later, approximately 42,000 years ago. Archaeologists discovered tuna and shark bones inside a cave in East Timor. These scientists determined these fish bones had been brought there by humans — the earliest evidence of deep sea fishing.

While the earliest boats can be dated back to 10,000 years ago, these early deep sea fishing civilizations could have made more primitive used rafts from wood.

Fast forward to the present day, and we have copious deep sea fishing gear available in thousands of stores across the country. Deep sea fishing poles are made with high-tech luxury features like titanium, stainless steel, silk thread wraps, and more. These veritable feats of engineering can run over $3,000. 

Sportfishing is a national pastime. Many fishers eat their catch, but others prefer a catch-and-release approach; they head to the shores just to soak up some sun and immerse themselves in nature.

But do you really need to spend over three grand for a good deep sea fishing loadout? What types of gear are necessary for deep sea fishing trips? 

Read on. 

Deep Sea Fishing Gear

Keep in mind that your deep-sea catch will be large, so you’ll need a fishing rod that can endure that type of weight. You may want to start with an offshore fishing rod. Offshore fishing requires a shorter and sturdier rod than those used by fly fishermen. Offshore rods should be between five and eight feet long.

The bait you’ll need for deep sea fishing will depend on your technique and intended catch of the day. Bait such as squid or barracuda is recommended for deep dropping since these can withstand the hostile conditions in the ocean’s murky depths. For trolling, deep-sea fishers will typically use live bait or bait with a strong scent, such as mackerel.

Which lure is ideal for your deep sea fishing trip? For reef-dwelling fish, you’ll want to aim for a heavy bottom jig. This type of lure is best for catching grouper or red snapper.

Deep diving plugs are a lure that works best for catching tuna, wahoo, and king mackerel. For additional guidance, consult your nearest experts when preparing to head out on the open waters.

What Are the Different Deep Sea Fishing Techniques?

There are several deep sea fishing techniques, all of which are dependent on the catch you are seeking.

Let’s discuss trolling and deep dropping: 

What Is Trolling?

Trolling refers to a method of fishing where one or more lines are drawn at the back of the boat. These baited lines are pulled behind a moving boat.

Many argue that trolling is the most effective mode of fishing. Since these baited lines move with the boat, they create the illusion of live prey to predator fish.

Trolling is a great way to target Mahi Mahi, tuna, sailfish, and marlin.

Deep Dropping

Deep dropping is a type of deep sea fishing well-suited to targeting deep sea species such as swordfish or grouper. Deep dropping requires a specific boat equipped to handle this fishing method.

Electric deep dropping reels are generally required, along with braided lines weighing up to 200 pounds. A deep-dropping private charter tends to be more expensive than other boat rental options, especially compared to party boat pricing. 

Planning Your Next Deep Sea Fishing Trip

When it comes to planning your deep sea fishing trip, consider these critical points:

Where To Go

First, decide where you plan on fishing. This will determine whether your deep sea fishing adventure will be a full-day trip or a half-day venture.

While deep sea fishing refers to fishing in depths of 100 or more feet, how long it takes to reach those depths will vary from location to location and trip type. 

In places such as Florida, along the Gulf Coast, you can reach depths of 100 plus feet only a few miles offshore for unmatched saltwater fishing. Destin, Florida, is known to be one of the best deep sea fishing locations, offering quick access to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Species such as tuna, mackerel, and even mako sharks thrive here.

Virginia Beach also offers ample opportunity for the perfect catch. With charter boats venturing into deep waters daily, booking a deep sea fishing trip has never been easier. Species of fish often found in the waters of Virginia Beach are billfish, tuna, and marlin.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is one of the most popular deep sea fishing destinations. Cape Cod offers access to bluefin tuna and striped sea bass. Of course, Cape Cod is perhaps most famous for delicious lobsters.

You could possibly catch lobster on the shores of Cape Cod Canal, but lobster fishing often demands the fisherman enter the deep sea, usually at night. Deep sea fishing, while not necessarily a walk in the park, is much simpler in comparison. 

Find deep sea fishing charters and deep sea fishing tours available to beginners and experts. Professional captains will guide fishers on how to locate and catch these prize species of fish.

What To Wear

Dress for the Elements

Dressing for a deep sea fishing trip can be tricky, especially when taking full-day trips. Weather patterns can change based on how far out to sea you travel. You may experience unexpected precipitation of cooler temperatures than where you departed. 

Pack ample sun protection if you plan to be exposed to the elements for long periods (even in shady or cloudy locations).

Dress for Sun Protection

Hats are another must-have when in any outdoor activity. Besides your hat, generously lather on sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to protect you from the sun’s harmful rays. Don’t forget sunglasses to protect from the sun's glare on the water (polarized lenses or anti-reflective lenses can be extra helpful here).

Stay Safe and Stay Dry

A rain jacket or windbreaker is essential. Packing a lightweight waterproof jacket will protect you from unexpected weather changes or ocean spray.

Closed-toed shoes or shoes with a non-slip grip are best for trips like these. This allows you to stay firmly planted when reeling in a large catch. Bring a second pair of socks; wet socks are the curse of the deep sea fisher, especially in turbulent waters.

What To Pack

Now that you’ve gathered your deep sea fishing gear and apparel, there are a few other provisions you’ll want to grab before you leave.

Seasickness Remedies

Nothing can ruin a fishing trip quite like an upset stomach. Even if you don’t typically get seasick, the constant rocking of smaller fishing boats can make for an unpleasant experience.

You may want to bring sea-sickness remedies. There are some prescription-only options (like Zofran). Others swear by natural remedies like ginger gum, 7up, seasickness wrist bands, and staring at the horizon.

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is another deep sea fishing trip essential. You don’t want to be caught out at sea without a way to tend to minor wounds.


It goes without saying that being in the middle of the ocean can make it challenging to purchase classic necessities. Before pulling up the anchor, fill up your Rotomolded Hard Cooler with ice, food, and drinks.

Pair your 50qt Hard Cooler from Patriot Coolers with the Divider and Cutting Board. This cooler accessory will separate your catch from your drinks. Plus, you can clean your catch while still on the water.

Coolers are essential for keeping your food and drinks cool for the duration of the day. You may also want to bring a tumbler to keep your drinks cold while they are out in the sun.

Other Things to Consider

When traveling out to sea, you want to be prepared with your fishing license. If you don’t have a fishing license, you can typically purchase them at the dock.

Some states will not require a fishing license if you go out on a licensed charter boat; check before you leave for your trip.

Another thing to consider is whether you’re taking out your own boat or are using a charter service. If you are using a charter boat, check with the company to see what equipment is provided. Some charter boats already include rods, reels, and bait. Finding this out beforehand will be helpful as you pack for your trip.

Anchors Away

Deep sea fishing can be an exciting adventure, earning fishermen a prize catch. While deep sea fishing is a worthwhile experience, there are important details to remember when planning your deep sea fishing trip to ensure things go smoothly.

When carefully planned, deep sea fishing can be an incredibly enjoyable and rewarding endeavor. 


When Humans First Plied Deep Blue Sea | Science

What causes seasickness? | National Ocean Service

Purchase a Fishing License | US Fish & Wildlife Service

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