10 myths to dispel about imperial garfish trolling

Un'aguglia imperiale

The imperial garfish is still, in many ways, a fish full of mysteries and charm, which often divides the opinions of experts, to the point of being able to identify 10 unfounded technical and behavioral beliefs, and which we therefore believe it is our duty to dispel...

If once its capture could be considered a rare event, it has now become a prey within the reach of all offshore tourists, and not only, thanks above all to its massive diffusion along most of our coasts, but also to the ever-increasing knowledge of techniques to undermine it. But we know, when a fish becomes the ambition of many fishermen, who sometimes dedicate themselves to it, perhaps even improvising, "interesting" theories can arise, some right, others clearly wrong, which can consequently lead even the novice to an incorrect approach.

And by looking at those who have been fishing for rostrati for much longer than us Mediterraneans, perhaps with a bit of experience you can understand which ones they are... We have identified 10 of them.

Long spun lines

The first belief, above all due to the knowledge of the only rostral present in the Mediterranean before the arrival of the imperial garfish, i.e. the swordfish, concerns the distance at which to string the bait. The theory according to which, since the swordfish prefers very long lines, the imperial garfish also goes along with it, being itself a rostral. But if it is true that it is a rostral, it is equally true that it has nothing in common with the swordfish, and perhaps behaves more similar to a small marlin or a sailfish. And so it goes without saying that it doesn't make much sense to spin the lines at hundreds of metres, other than the classic shot gun, instead probing the first 60 meters from the stern, up to even 15/20 metres.

Soft rods

How can a large hook, perhaps 9/0, penetrate a hard part such as the beak of an imperial garfish, if on the other side of the line we have an 8/10 pound rod ready to bend and cushion the entire force necessary to allow that hook to set correctly? We agree on the fact that these are fish that objectively do not reach significant dimensions to justify the use of heavy equipment, indeed it would certainly be more fun to face a fight with a light rod... but the problem arises precisely on the strike, where this type of equipment would not work in our favor. Therefore, if we really want to compete in the most sporty way possible, we could perhaps allocate the light rods to the divergent ones, hardening the release pliers so as to leave the task of setting the hook to the latter.

Double hook

Over the years I have been able to see Kona armed in the most disparate ways, even with treble hooks. Without taking these last cases into account, perhaps we start from an already more advanced step, of those who use a rig with specific hooks. The most frequent dilemma is: single or double hook in opposite tandem? The answer is simple: single hook. And the motivation is equally simple if we analyze the way various fish attack bait. Specifically, there is a difference between a beak and a tuna for example. If the latter opens its mouth wide to swallow its prey by placing itself sideways to it, the beak instead tries to stun it before eating it by hitting it with its beak. But a bait towed by a boat will continue to "escape"... which is why our imperial garfish will continue to strike undaunted. And by striking by striking, the hook will set, perhaps not necessarily in the mouth, but also externally... provided we have positioned it well, that is, as far back as possible towards the end of the skirt. Otherwise it would risk being pinned too far forward on the beak, inevitably unhooking itself during the fight. The position in the center of the skirt is, however, effective for tuna, dolphinfish and all fish that tend to bite the bait. In the case of the double hook therefore, it is a rig to be used when our attention does not want to be directed exclusively to the billfish... but which inevitably exposes us to the risk of being unhooked in the event that an imperial garfish were to hook on the front hook. We can therefore say that the use of double hook rigs increases the chances of unhooking, rather than decreasing them.

Open the clutch

“The clutch must be kept slow, so when you feel it slipping you open it and give it a chance to eat”… In this theory there is not one error, but at least two. The first is that the clutch should not be kept slow, but hard, at least at 3 kg, even 4: it must not slip, it must start! As we have said, imperial garfish do not eat, they strike with the beak and, when striking, the drag must not slip, because when the hook hooks between one strike and another, it will have to penetrate immediately... and if the drag is slow, this will not happen (as with the soft rod). So if we happen to hear small friction strikes when the garfish is behind the bait, we have made a mistake with the adjustment. The second mistake is to open the clutch to make the bait eat, which we remember is artificial. And we hope that a fish eats a fake, still bait. Maybe he will continue to play with the bill before realizing what is happening, maybe the hook will set, but we will have the drag open and it won't set. Therefore, deep sea trolling with imperial needlefish, the drag must be kept closed, and your eyes trained on the bait to understand when a fish comes up to follow.

Thread out on the divergents

Same goes for the clutch. Anyone who thinks of leaving some loose line between the release pliers and the rod does so in the hope of making the imperial garfish eat the bait when the latter is hit and the divergent pliers release the line. But as we said, this will not happen. It is therefore important to ensure that there is as little wire as possible between the release pliers and the tip of the rod, and that the clip is adjusted so that it can already give the hook enough strength to penetrate even hard parts such as the beak. To be honest, we are required to specify that the technique of leaving the line loose, i.e. the drop back, actually exists... but it is used when natural bait is used. In the latter case, in fact, the technique involves an adjustment of the release clamp to the limit of the opening, so that at the first stroke of the beak it can open, the bait stops thanks to the drop back of the line, and be eaten by the fish, being natural.

Double shock leader

Is the beak of the imperial garfish sharp? Absolutely not! Anyone who has had the opportunity to fish one has noticed how the very small beak has a round section, not as sharp as that of a swordfish, and has a very rough surface, due to the presence of thousands of micro teeth. In practice it abrades, not cuts. But during a fight, especially if you use rigid rigs that protect the first 15/20 cm before the hook, there is no way to wear out a nylon line to the point of compromising its hold. Of course this doesn't mean that we will use a 0.30 mm shock leader, but let's say that if we used a 0.50/0.60 we wouldn't take a big risk... if we wanted to be more relaxed we could reach 0.90, but it doesn't make sense increase further in diameter. Indeed, the use of thinner, and therefore softer, shock leaders offers us the advantage of giving the baits a much more natural and therefore attractive movement.

Trimmed outboards

The importance of "cleaning" the wake is often underestimated, especially when trolling with surface baits, compared to sinking minnows. For this reason it is often thought that by trimming the outboard motors upwards, in order to create greater turbulence on the surface, the attractive power towards pelagics can be increased, attracted by the noise and the foam that resembles that of a feeding. However, the visibility factor of the baits is neglected, as they will be almost hidden by the white foam. Otherwise, the engines trimmed to the maximum downwards will certainly make less noise, but will concentrate their foam a few centimeters under the surface of the water, leaving the surface cleaner... and also by pushing the bow of the boat downwards, they will help to flatten the wake and therefore make it even cleaner, making our Kona swim optimally.

The via ferrata

Let's start from a basic concept: deep sea trolling is not hooked! We sail at a speed between 6 and 9 knots, with a drag calibrated to a minimum of 3 kg. By the time we hear the clutch start, the imperial garfish will have already received a strike from the boat which will have allowed the hook to penetrate. If this had not happened, taking the rod in hand and hooking, considering the elasticity of the nylon main line, we would not return any type of strength to the hook: on the contrary, due to the elastic effect, we could increase the risk of unhooked. It is therefore better to slow down and start the fight, resisting the temptation to strike.


The fluor carbon terminal is one of those beliefs that is difficult to change, especially for those who approach deep sea trolling coming from live bait trolling. The difference, however, lies precisely in the trolling speed: with live bait, at 1 knot or little more, the fish may have the opportunity to notice the line, which justifies the use of fluorine. Otherwise, at high seas, at a speed of 6/8 knots, in the foam of the wake, but also in clean water, it would be practically impossible for our imperial garfish to notice the thread tied to the bait. Furthermore, the rigidity of fluor carbon does not allow the bait to move in a very natural way, a characteristic that we instead find in a good and soft nylon.

Soft head baits

Soft head baits are born from the need to prevent the beak, by hitting with the beak, from perceiving the hardness of a resin or metal head and understanding that it is an artificial trap, thus definitively losing interest. Nothing to object to, except that almost no one is aware of the fact that this type of bait was created to target swordfish exclusively, so much so that even marlin baits with hard heads are widely used with excellent results... let alone if we're talking about garfish imperials whose beak is very short and will be very difficult to manage to hit the trestina, assuming it can be bothered by it!

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