Deep drop fishing is amazingly cool: you catch fish that most people never lay eyes on, like golden tilefish, black-belly rosefish, and monkfish, all of which are spectacularly weird-looking (though none quite match up to the oyster toad, the world’s ugliest fish, for sheer shock value). But it’s also quite challenging, especially when you hook up with a 50 pound fish that’s 900 feet below your boat. He has no desire to rise to the surface, and if you’re going to catch him, you’ll have to turn the crank on your reel somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 times, depending on the angle of your line and how the fight goes. Ready to break a sweat? Okay then – here are five tips that will help make it happen.

deep drop fishing

This golden tilefish was hand-cranked from 860 feet on a deep drop fishing trip.

1. Always use circle hooks. Those fish are a long, long way off, and you need a self-setting hook to account for the slack and stretch laying between you and the fish, even with braid lines.

2. Use multi-hook rigs. You don’t want to reel in all that line every time you feel a bite, and wonder if your bait was stolen. Every rig should have at least three baits on it, and four or five is better.

3. When you reel a fish several hundred feet off the bottom and then the hook pops free, don’t leave the area for a few minutes. In most cases, once you bring a fish up this far its air bladder expands well beyond the fish’s ability to control it. As a result, fish which fall off the hook often float up to the surface all on their own. Much of the time, they’re thoroughly incapacitated and you can simply motor over to them and scoop the bobbing fish out of the water with a net.

4. When relatively small fish, like those black-belly rosefish, are chomping on the baits, leave your rig on the bottom after you feel a nibble or two. These fish run in schools, and often, you can crank up several at a time if you allow a few seconds for multiple fish to take multiple baits.

5. Put plastic glow-in-the-dark sleeves on your hook shanks and/or crimps. Adding a little illumination certainly helps when deep-dropping, and regular cyalume glow sticks will get crushed by the pressure in water this deep.

Written by: Lenny Rudow
With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld,, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.