Lying at the bottom of the ocean in 600 to 800 feet of water, golden tilefish are a worthy target for any offshore angler. But the standard-issue method of dragging a “meat rig” with multiple baited hooks and four or five pounds of weight along the bottom may be considered less than sporting, by some. Those who enjoy a real challenge will target these fish by deep-drop jigging.

golden tilefish caught by jigging
This fat golden tilefish chomped on a jig in about 800 feet of water.

Gear consists of a high-speed conventional reel spooled with 50- or 65-pound braid capped with a wind-on 80-pound mono leader, and a short jigging rod with a slow action tip. The jigs themselves can be anywhere from around a half-pound (on very calm days) to about a pound and a half. They should be rigged with double hooks; a single up top, and a treble on the bottom. All rigged up and ready to go? Here’s the drill:

  • Bait the lower hook with a squid, draped across the three tines of the hook.
  • Bait the upper hook with a strip of cut fish.
  • Drop to the bottom (yes it will take a l-o-n-g time).
  • After hitting the ocean floor, raise the rod tip so the jig hovers just off bottom.
  • Allow the waves and the slow-action tip to slowly sway the jig up and down.
  • Every minute or two, lower the tip and feel for bottom. If you’ve lost it, let out additional line until hitting again.
  • The moment you feel a hit swing for the stars, and start cranking.

For more in-depth information on catching golden tilefish off the Mid-Atlantic coast using various tactics and techniques, check out Prospecting for Golden Tilefish.