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Do you want to fish for tilefish? Would you like to learn how to catch tilefish? Golden tiles live at the bottom where they reside in canonical burrows. They are found in deep water in depths ranging from 600 to 900 feet.

It can be challenging to catch fish from deep waters and you will need techniques that will be effective for that depth. In this article, we discuss how to fish for this tasty fish.

How To Catch Tilefish
What is a Tilefish?
A tilefish is a bottom fish that is found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They are a member of the Malacanthidia family with more than 40 different species. It features very large eyes as it lives in deeper water in burrows where there is not much light. This allows them to hunt in very low light conditions. Tilefish features a blueish-gray back, goldish-yellow spots, a russet head, and blue eyes.

How To Catch Tilefish

Golden tilefish inhabit the bottom where they can be found preying on squid, bonito, Jonah crabs, and lobster. Tilefish build canonical burrows that they live in at the bottom. When targeting them, anglers use weighted rigs that are dropped to the bottom with squid or fresh-cut bait.

Bottom and drift fishing and jigging are techniques required by anglers when targeting the great northern tilefish. Moreover, deep dropping is a technique of bottom fishing that is used most of the time when catching tilefish.

Bottom Fishing

Tilefish is a bottom fish that can be found in burrows. Tilefish eat squid, crabs, lobster, clams, bonito, herring, skipjacks, and barracuda.

Anglers fish for tiles using bottom fishing where the rig is dropped to the bottom and dragged across the bottom to get the attention of tiles to get them to bite. A glow or a bright light is attached to the rig to attract tilefish as they are attracted to the light.

Tricks To Catch Tilefish

Drift Fishing

Drift fishing is also used when targeting blueline tilefish. The bait is dropped to the bottom and anglers will drift the boat over the area to get the attention of tilefish. As the boat drifts, the rig will drag in the soft bottom stirring sediment which gets the attention of tilefish.


Jigging is another method that anglers use when targeting blueline tilefish. The bait is set on the hook and dropped to the bottom. It is then pulled up by jerking it upward at intervals to get the attention of the fish.

Jigging is an effective method used when for a variety of fish species. However, when using deep drop rigs, don’t jig as it can easily pull the fish hook from the mouths of the fish.

Tips To Catch Tilefish

Tilefish Fishing Rigs

1. Lay Down Rigs

This rig uses two weights with the heavier of two leads close to the main line and another lead at the end. This setup makes it easy for the rig to drag across the bottom, stirring up sediment which gets the attention of tilefish. Attach a high-quality deep drop light which will help attract tiles.

2. Multi-Hook Deep Drop Rigs

Multi-hook deep drop rigs consist of five or six 8/0 to 12/0 circle hooks. Anglers usually use squid, sea clams, or fish chunks as bait on the circle hooks.

Additionally, most rigs feature a small plastic glow-in-the-dark tube at or near the hook. The weights are usually weighed from three to five pounds.

3. Chicken Rigs

The chicken rig is very similar to the lay-down rig. The only difference is that the lay down rig has two sinkers while the chicken rig has one. However, many anglers prefer the lay down rig since it keeps all of the individual baits on the bottom.

Ideas To Catch Tilefish

Tilefish Fishing Tackle

Tilefish are caught with heavy tackle, heavy power fishing rods, and electric reels with a fast-action rod tip.

Use braided lines, about 100 pounds, when fishing for tilefish at the bottom. Deep dropping rods with a curved butt that allows anglers to swing the fishing rig into the boat for maintenance and re-rigging is a top choice for anglers.

Monofilament lines will stretch to the point that you will hardly tell when the rig hits the bottom or more importantly, when a tilefish is hooked.

On the other hand, you will feel the nibbles on your line when using braided lines even at depths of 800 feet or more when targeting tilefish.

Best Baits For Tilefish

1. Squid

Squid is the most often used bait when fishing for tilefish. The whole squid is not often used. Instead, anglers usually use chunks of squid which are more effective to attract fish.

2. Bonito

Bonito is another fish that is used as bait when fishing for tilefish. Like squid, bonito chunks work better to catch tilefish.

3. Barracuda

Chunks of barracuda are also very effective when fishing for tilefish.

4. Jonah Crabs

Jonah crabs work well when fishing for tilefish.

5. Lobster

Lobster is another prey for tilefish on the bottom and anglers use it as bait effectively to catch tilefish.

6. Skipjack

Skipjack works well as bait when fishing for tilefish.

7. Clams

Clams are also used as bait when fishing for tilefish.

8. Herring

Herring also work well as bait for tilefish. Herring strips are what anglers use when targeting tilefish.

Hacks To Catch Tilefish

Tilefish Fishing Tips

  1. Golden tilefish live at the bottom in depths ranging from 600 to 900 feet, although they have been found as deep as 1,500 feet.

2. Circle hooks are preferred when fishing for tilefish.

3. Squid, bonito, clams, Jonah crabs, lobster, herring, and barracuda are some of the best baits when fishing for a tilefish trip.

4. You can find golden tilefish in conical-shaped burrows on clay bottoms. They don’t migrate or move around much which makes them easy to target in their habitats.

5. Golden tilefish like areas of the bottom with a soft bottom such as clay.

6. Use a weighted rig to the bottom with squid or fresh-cut bait when fishing for tilefish.

7. Anglers will use a glow with the bait or attach a high-quality light on the rig to attract tilefish. The water pressure can easily destroy a less durable drop light. Go for a durable and tough one that can withstand the enormous water pressure deep in the water column.

8. Braided lines are the best option when fishing for tilefish in the Gulf of Mexico or other areas as it is sensitive enough for you to feel the nibbles even at depths of 800 feet or more.

9. Bottom fishing, jigging, and drift fishing are fishing methods used by anglers when targeting tilefish.

10. When your bait hits the bottom, you want to make sure it remains on the bottom. Give more line as you drift.

Catch Tilefish Tips

11. Move to deeper waters if your baits are constantly being eaten by sharks during the winter months. Sometimes going 50 or 100 feet deeper puts you beyond the sharks while you are still in the tilefish areas.

12. If you are in an area that you are certain has tilefish but you are not getting any strikes, you can leave and return later. Sometimes fish just don’t bite no matter what is the bait or fishing method.

13. Don’t jig a deep drop rig. Jigging a deep drop rig can easily pull the circle hooks out of the mouths of the fish.

14. Deep drop rigs and lay down rigs are rigs often used by anglers when fishing for tilefish.

15. Tilefish prefer a range of stable water temperatures within the 50-degree range.

16. Tilefish like a sloping bottom. They will build their canonical-shaped burrows on sloping bottoms.

17. When drift fishing for tilefish, determine the direction of the current and drop your bait about 300 feet up-current of the target area.

18. An electric reel with 100-pound braided line will be the best choice when fishing for tilefish.

19. Tilefish don’t have many teeth.

20. You don’t need to set the hook when fishing for tilefish since the sinker’s weight will set the hook against the moving fish.

21. Tilefish is a lazy fish and will not travel very far from their burrows chasing after food. Hence, it is important to keep the boat stationary.

22. The best way to keep the boat stationary is to set a mark on your GPS and directs the boat into the current, maintaining the exact latitude and longitude.

23. You can get the attention of tilefish by bouncing your sinker off the bottom to create commotion and attract tilefish.

24. The best time to fish for tilefish is on sunny and calm days. Always check your weather forecast before setting out to fish for tilefish.

25. If your sinker gets stuck in the mud, you will then know that you are in tilefish territory. If it feels rocky, retrieve your rig and go to another area that has soft bottoms.

26. Tilefish can be caught year-round as they don’t move often from their burrows.

27. They are most active during the daylight hours, especially sunny days when enough light can travel deep down to help them see and find food.

28. A 4 to 5-pound sinker will work when targeting tilefish.

29. Deep dropping is the technique most anglers use when bottom fishing for tilefish.

30. Tilefish is a tasty fish with the flavor of lobsters which makes sense as it preys on crustaceans found at the bottom of the ocean floor.

Catch Tilefish Ideas
What is the best bait for tilefish?
Squid is the favorite of many anglers to catch tilefish. They usually use chunks of squid as bait. However, bonito, barracuda, skipjack, herring, clams, Jonah crabs, herring, and lobsters are very effective as baits for tilefish.
How deep to catch tilefish?
Tiles can be found in water depths ranging from 600 to 900 feet. However, tiles have also been found in depths as deep as 1,500 feet.
Is tilefish healthy to eat?
Tiles from the Atlantic Ocean are healthy to eat; however, tiles from the Gulf of Mexico have been reported to have the highest level of Mercury of all fish tested by the FDA.
What does tilefish taste like?
Tilefish feed on crustaceans found deep in the water column. Therefore, tiles have mild and sweet flavors similar to the taste of crabs and lobsters.
Are tilefish aggressive?
There are no substantial reports that one can draw conclusions from to state that tiles are aggressive to humans. They do protect their burrow colonies from invaders.
What time of the year is best for tilefish?
Tilefish are most active during daylight hours when enough sunlight can get down into the deep waters to help them see and find food. Therefore, sunny days are the best time to fish for tilefish.

The Bottom Line

Tilefish is a bottom feeder that lives on soft bottoms in canonical-shaped burrows. They prey on squid, clams, lobsters, herring, bonito, and barracuda. Most anglers use strips or chunks of these fish and crustaceans when targeting tilefish.

Bottom fishing, especially deep dropping, drift fishing, and jigging are used on a tilefish trip. Tilefish is a member of the Malacanthidia family that comprises more than 40 different species. It is found in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.

Moreover, anglers use weighted rigs that are dropped to the bottom to catch tilefish. A high-speed reel is the best option for targeting golden tilefish and blueline tilefish on the fishing grounds. In this article, we shared information to help you catch this tasty fish.

If you are interested in catching other species of fish, you can also read how to catch alligator gar, how to catch black grouper, how to catch Atlantic salmon, how to catch arctic char, and how to catch albacore tuna.