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Open Water/Offshore

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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Eric S

New Member
Mar 12, 2003
I'm looking for some feedback on the safety or lack thereof, of getting in the water far offshore. In the northeast US, we run approx. 80 miles offshore to get to bluewater for sportfishing. These waters are over the continental shelf/canyons, where it drops from 600feet to 6,000 feet. I am thinking about getting in the water to see species such as mahi, porpoise, tuna, ..... maybe near lobster buoys, or other flotsam. What I am concerned about is mainly dangerous critters. We have makos and bluesharks mainly, but there is the rare appearance of a tiger, white, ...... Also, what about any dangerous of going in the water with porpoise, which I think are Atlantic bottlenose.
We also, in the N. Gulf of Mexico, run upwards of 100+ mi. offshore. Make sure you are properly prepared for such an undertaking. File a floatplan, have proper safety equipment, ect. That is a serious trip.

There are inherent dangers to bluewater diving. Sharks are a fact of life out there. Pick up a copy of Terry Maas's Bluewater Hunting and Freediving and he covers about everything out there. Floating around in 1000+ ft of water is definately spooky and takes time getting used to.

As for the porpoises, I have never had a problem with them. They will regulate how close they will let you get and how much interaction you will have in an encounter.
The boating part is easy for me since I regularly fish the area rod and reel style. I am just thinking about adding a whole new aspect to the offshore trip. We usually go for 2 days spending the night offshore. Most people around here think its crazy to get out of a perfectly good boat that far offshore. I would stay near the boat and have an experienced person at the helm in case of problems. Boat has a tuna door, so getting out of the water quickly will be pretty easy if needed. We also see white marlin fairly often, which don't seem to be bothered by the boat. Seems like a great opportunity to get a whole new view on things.
I remember seeing on the news one night a couple of years ago where this guy had a 6’ foot shark at the back of the boat, ready to bring it in, when a great white came and took it. That was off the north east coast, right about your area. The shark head was almost as wide as the stern of the boat!

Don’t get scared about getting in the water though, it’s a great way to ad some fun to a fishing trip. Soon you will be doing more hunting then fishing. I only stay in the boat long enough now to get the company started fishing and show them where the gear is.

I think you will have to get next to some structure, buoy, etc. or you it will be like Iya experienced, fish scatter quickly or there is nothing there. The only way I think you could get fish close without structure is to chum. Is there any offshore drilling in your area?

Rig, how do you file a float plan?
You can file a float plan with the local USCG office...we have to for certain types of trips...i.e. overnighters. At the minimum you do this with a relative, friend or neighbor. Basically it is a plan of where you intend to be and when it is you intend to be there. The big thing is that if you dont return on time the USCG is notified and given the plan and it helps them with a better idea of where you might be. This can make all the difference.

As far as those NE offshore trip...try the lobster buoys. Bait will be right on top of it. To see the big uns' swim out till the bait edge(the farthest the bait will swim away from the structure...sometimes up to a hundred yards) and dive that area. Also jump in on any rips or weedlines you come across.
Another way to get close that would probably work, is if you get a Mahi-mahi / dorado on line, have someone hold the rod and leave fish in the water, while you get into the water. The other fish tend to get excited and stay around the hooked one. I have never done this freediving, but it seems plausible.

We use a method of fishing here, called piggy back, where when we have one hooked we don’t pull it in until we have another hooked, so we can keep one in the water at all times.

Some people on larger boats also use this method with tuna. I would be a little hesitant to get in the water with a large fish on line, in fear of getting tangled.

Rig, Thanks for the info on Float plans. You would never guess how important of a subject this is to me right now.
First of all diving in 6000', 600', 60', it's all the same. If you can't walk home safty is the number one priority. As you said, having someone in the boat that knows what to do is a must. I don't think your shark chances go up offshore, besides I'd rather be in BW to see them from far away than closer in w/ less vis.
Just a technicality but dolphins and porposies aren't the same thing. Either way they should be safe to swim w/ and may even have a few tuna under them.
I have to agree with Jay. But I have to add that if you're even asking if it's okay, you might want to skip it. You have to have a good idea of what you're getting into in order to plan how to do it. I always gut check myself when doing something new. If I'm not able to plan for every possibility and accept the risks that I might not be able to control, I don't do it. In my opinion getting into something you're not comfortable with is the biggest danger in the water. For every person it's different, but once you start to panic in any situation you're in trouble. Realistically I don't think the critters are your biggest worry. It's more about the conditions you put yourself in with surrounding boats, lines, etc. and how you plan for and handle or react to those conditions.

Just my 2c.

Thanks everyone for the great input. I have always been curious about getting into the water offshore, but nobody around here seems to do it, so I had to ask around. Does anyone think that chumming would potentially increase the dangers from critters. Hopefully it will bring in more of them, therefore increasing the relatively low odds of something happening, but does in create other dangers like exciting sharks into more of an attack mode ?
Oh, and Sven, what she doesn't know won't hurt her ! My old lady will think I have lost my mind when she finds out I've been swimming with makos, bluesharks, or whatever else I can find.
Originally posted by Eric S
Oh, and Sven, what she doesn't know won't hurt her ! My old lady will think I have lost my mind when she finds out I've been swimming with makos, bluesharks, or whatever else I can find.

I think she already knows!!!!!!! BTW, a local guy here two seasons ago jumped overboard near a big log down in Fishtails Canyon which is straight south of Montauk, NY. On one dive, he back up with a 25lb bull mahi on his speargun! That idea about leaving one on the line and going over the side is a great idea too!
Maybe you don't have to go offshore... My father
in-law was telling me a couple of days ago about
a 20-something foot center console that hooked up
with, and caught, a huge bluefin at the entrance to
Cape Cod bay, off of Provincetown.


If you're not familiar with the animals you're talking about then I'd think twice before jumping in with them, and think three times before chumming and jumping in with them. I don't think people appreciate the nature of some of these critters, especially when they're wound up. If you think you're going to chum and hop in to get a good look at a mako, good luck. They're one of the fastest fish in the ocean and we're one of the clumsiest creatures to ever fall into the water. Get em hyped up and miscalculate the slightest bit and you're fish food.

Sorry if I'm coming across a little strong, but I see it all the time. We get people down here that think they can feed the dolphins in the bay. More than one person has gotten bit and needed to be stitched up. These are big, powerful animals with sharp teeth. Once we enter their realm we sacrifice significant control of the situation. Use your head and accept any risks, realized or unrealized, as your own.

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There is no way I would let anyone on my boat chum when we spear offshore .
As M-2 mentioned ; mako's are bad enough without provoking them into a feeding frenzy .
IMHO , if you want to observe the big ones , by all means do so but in a natural setting .