Seaweed provides fish with nutrients and a place to hide from predators, making it a perfect fishing spot. However, to fish in seaweed, you have to deal with seaweed getting tangled in your lures and lines. Seaweed can be a problem when fishing by boat and from the shore. It can ruin a good day of fishing as you spend more time cleaning bait and lines than catching fish.
How do you avoid seaweed when fishing? Seaweed can be avoided by fishing the right side of the “weedline,” using the right bait and lures, and moving to another spot. Since seaweed is moved by weather and currents, the same area is not always free of grass.
Read on to find out how to avoid seaweed while fishing while also getting close enough to the seaweed to reap the benefits of being able to fish among the predator fish that are commonly outside of the seaweed.
Finding seaweed while ocean fishing is unavoidable. It is moved around by weather and currents and provides food and shelter for many of the smaller fish that are prey to the bigger fish. Learning how to find water close to the seaweed that is “grass-free” can result in some of the best fishing if you can avoid the seaweed. The key is identifying the right conditions for fishing and using the right equipment.
Sargassum weed is found mostly in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a brown algae type seaweed, and it is concentrated in the Sargasso Sea. Two species of Sargassum weed have become holopelagic, meaning they drift and migrate throughout the ocean. Driven by the wind and current, it often ends up in the Gulf of Mexico. It becomes a mobile habitat for a large variety of marine life, especially young fish, because of the protection it offers.
The seaweed provides shelter, food, and a natural habitat for forming large schools of fish. The presence of all the young fish in this floating habitat attracts larger fish who hover around the edges waiting for a smaller fish to dart out. This provides a great place to fish for those in search of predator fish. The problem is catching the fish without catching the seaweed.
Those fishing in areas that have Sargassum weed usually encounter the weed in either weedlines or weed patches. Weedlines are long lines of seaweed that have clumped together, and weed patches are large areas where seaweed have congregated. Both can snag lines and foul lures.
Trolling is a form of ocean fishing. It typically involves using more than one fishing line set up at the back of the boat to drag the lures or baitfish behind. Trolling is a major goal of many anglers because they dream of snagging “the big one.” But when seaweed is in the area, mostly what they snag is grass and weeds.
When trolling, the seaweed can build up on the lines faster than it can be cleared. One person moves from line to line, clearing the seaweed. Once they reach the last one, if the seaweed is heavy enough, they have to do the first one again. Some anglers call this “baling hay” because, if not cleared, the seaweed balls up like a big hay bale being dragged behind the boat.
Weedlines can start to “stand up” or “rip” when the current is pushing and the wind is just right. Baitfish and game fish will concentrate along the line when this happens. One of the most famous “rips” is discussed in the article “Seaweed – Friend or Foe” by Bobby Byrd and John Cochrane for Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine.
This rip is in the Gulf of Mexico near the Louisiana Delta. The delta is created by the Mississippi River meeting the Gulf Loop Current, often denoted by cobalt water on one side and muddy brown water on the other.
These rips form a huge weedline full of nutrients from the river and attract large schools of baitfish. The action of the wind and current will usually create a “clean” side along the edge of the matted weeds. You can troll this weedless zone, keep your bait clean, and enjoy some of the best game fishing as large numbers of marlin and tuna feed on the baitfish up and down the weedline.
In some cases, both sides of the weedline will have seaweed. This can be addressed by trying to fish on the side that has the fewest weeds or by using a drift fishing method. Drift fishing allows the boat to move freely with the wind or current. The speed is typically slower than trolling and results in less build-up and slower build of seaweed on the lines and lures.
Sometimes, the seaweed will not form into a line, and the result is scattered weed in huge clumps. When trying to troll in these areas, expect to “bale lots of hay” since the fishing lines collect seaweed almost faster than it can be cleaned. When this happens, you can try a few different things.
The first thing would be to switch to smaller bait with a smaller profile that keeps the weed from attaching to the lure. Even when the weed does not create a tight weedline, it will often still line up in windrows that create some clean water between them. This area can be trolled with little build-up.
The other option is to switch from trolling to live bait fishing. This lessens the need to move around and decreases the weed build up on the line. Finally, you can try to move to another spot that has less seaweed.
Using the Proper Equipment
When seaweed is in the water near you, using the right equipment can help avoid some of it. Lures that keep the hook tucked into the bait, such as a chugger, decrease the chance of the hook catching the seaweed. Another option is to use an unweighted skirt with the hook tucked inside. This will cause it to skip along the surface and not drag the hook through the seaweed.
Seaweed can also get picked up on the fishing line, sliding on the water. A braided line is thinner and less likely to pick up as much seaweed. By changing the depth of the line, the bait might be placed in water with less grass and seaweed. A depth rig might be needed to help change the depth of the lure. Remember when trolling, the weight will pull it to a lower depth than when drifting.
As currents, storms, and weather conditions change, a once pristine beach can become covered in seaweed as it chokes the area just off the shore. Because sargassum weed drifts with the currents, it can often be pushed toward the shore during a storm surge. In these conditions, shore anglers may have to move to a different area or come back a different day.
Using bait and lines designed for seaweed can help decrease the build-up. Knowing the weather conditions that create large amounts of seaweed closer to shore can assist you in choosing better fishing days. A satellite website also helps with tracking unusually large seaweed blooms to help both shore and open ocean anglers know where the highest concentrations are.
Seaweed is both friend and foe of the ocean angler. It creates a great habitat for baitfish, turtles, and other young marine life. This attracts predator fish that are the goal of fishing. But with the fish comes the seaweed on lines and lures. An angler cannot completely avoid seaweed, but you can reduce the impact it has on your fishing by carefully selecting your fishing spot and using the proper equipment.