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  1. Hi Everyone, checkout the new YouTube video on EBOutdoors featuring Mangrove Snapper Fishing in Islamorada. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LEmGXzwkEw We're excited to bring you more fishing and hunting videos from around South Florida, so please subscribe to our YouTube channel EBOutdoors. You can also follow us on Instagram @e.b.outdoors Appreciate the views!
  2. Sorry for the delay in posting but I just recuperated from back to back 39hr trips on the FL Fisherman II. With that in mind I am going combine the trips into one report. Hope it’s not too long. The weekend trip started out with deciding to try Ft Desoto for catching bait. If you haven’t been to this park you are missing one of the true jewels in the Bay area. This county park has the widest range of habitat I know of that doesn’t require a boat. There are two piers and many access points for the back waters as well as open beach. Deciding which area I fish first depends on how much bait I’m trying to catch. Since I was only catching for myself and had plenty of time I hit the back waters as not only is that where the bigger baits are but it is very peaceful. After hitting several spots with OK results I went to the picnic area (west end of park) which has a large open water area as well as a large lagoon. Note: for bait purposes it is best to go during high tide. After about three hours I had about 60 baits of a great size mixture. (This is another good reason to go to Desoto) On my way out of the park I saw a large number of emergency vehicles ahead and my first thought was someone must have hit a cyclist. I was over joyed to see that not only was there no emergency but the commotion was a group of at least 100 Wounded Warriors on bikes. The sight of all those heroes and the obvious sacrifices they’ve made combined with me out there in total freedom brought tears of gratitude as I passed them giving the thumbs up. To all those who have and are serving and their families “Thank you” Now time to put the beach in the rear view. We had a light load of about 20 stout of heart fishermen as the wind was blowing at least 20 knts. This would be the case most of the trip as the seas averaged 5-8 most of the trip. Fortunately we had a following sea so the ride out wasn’t bad. Trolling on the way out is still slow. All I saw was one Bonita. The Captain told us we were headed to the North end of the Elbow. I love to fish this area as it is noted for BIG Goozers. We started around midnight in around 200’ with at least 5’ seas. I was glad to be on the catamaran as even in rough weather it provides a stable platform. The big Mangroves bit from beginning to end on this trip. People ask me what the average size is of the Mangrove Snapper offshore. Well I have caught them both recreational and commercially and I’ve concluded it is 3 lbs. On this trip I reached my 20 limit with at least a 5 lb average. I had 3 in the 7 lb range with my jackpot winner coming in at 7.4 lbs. I was catching them on both dead and live bait. As the bigger ones were hitting the livey’s I focused on that. In fact I caught 5 during the day on big Pinners while targeting AJ’s using 100 lb test. The jackpot Goozer I got on the last stop. There were some nice ones coming up so I reached in my bait well and got a hand size live Pin that I would usually only put down for AJ’s or Grouper. Normally Mangos nibble on live baits so you have to feed it to them. My bait was down for less than a minute when it was hogged. Gotta tell you if you are passionate about fishing like me it doesn’t get any better than this. Even though the night bite was the best the catching was steady throughout the trip. I’m still catching and releasing a number of Gags and ARS. I released 8 Gags (one in the 20 lb range) and at least a dozen ARS, two I caught back to back that were in the 15 lb range. The legal AJ bite is still a bit sporadic with only one keeper caught this trip. (Tip: the one AJ was not in the JP, Always get in the JP as every trip there is at least one person who would have won but wasn’t in the pool) In fairness the Capt. tried to take us to a proven AJ spot but it was 9 miles into an 8’ sea so we stopped after a few minutes. The trolling once we were out there was productive with several Black Fin Tuna landed. I had two big strikes no hook up. Always more to learn. There weren’t that many Porgies or B-Liners but the ones caught were nice size. I saw at least a dozen Triggers and some decent Scamps. Overall it was a solid trip with many people catching the biggest Mango’s they’d ever caught. (My personal best is just over 13 lbs I caught back in the early 90’s) One day off and now for the Tuesday trip. My fatigue quickly left me as I began to load the old Chevy for the trip south. It was bit easier as much of what I pack was still on the truck from the previous trip. I planned to start at the Skyway as I was catching for two. My friend (Jig Head Ed) was coming on this trip. My plan almost ended in disaster as the Skyway (Fog) was closed and I almost got caught in the stand still on 275. Luckily I was able to get off on the Ft. Desoto exit. I decided to go straight to the Bay Pier as I was targeting 100 Pins. (Tip: if you are fishing either of the Desoto Piers you need a cart as it is a fair walk from the parking lot.) The pier was more crowded than usual (probably due to Skyway closure) and the bite was slower than normal but I was able to get about 50 decent baits before moving on. I tried a few spots near John’s Pass with mixed results. Fortunately I was able to supplement my catch with a few dozen from Hubbard’s. I’d rather have a dozen more than I need than one short. With the fantastic weather the boat was almost full. The trolling was still slow on the way out with only one Spanish caught. The water is still a bit chilly and churned up near shore but this should improve daily. Captain Bryon said we would start around midnight just short of the Middle Grounds and work our way in. The first stop usually is fair to middling as the anchor heading is best guess and so this stop is a test. Mangroves usually take 10-15 minutes to fire up but they were chewing from the start. Everyone was catching them. I had eight in about 10 minutes. As the size was average at best I started culling them early. The rest of that night the bite was on fire. The Captain told me the boat had at least 300 Goozers on board before Sun up. I caught around 30 but only strung 12. Got to save some for the future while honing my skills. By the end of the trip anyone who focused on Mangroves had their limit. During the day the bite was decent. Around 9:00 AM the Capt took us on a 1-1/2 hour ride to a wreck for AJ’s. During that run a group of us trolled. Most were using stretch lures. The bite was great with several Black Fins landed. About 45 mins into the trip I had a massive strike that was singing the drag. Before I could even grab the rod it was off. I am trolling braid with 20’ of mono for shock and I’m thinking I may need to add more. (I would appreciate any input on this) About 10 minutes later the fellow next to me got slammed and eventually landed a 60 lb Wahoo. I am convinced that is what hit me but you never know. 10-15 minutes later I had another strike and this time I got hooked up. Right away I knew I had a big one on. I was hoping it was a Wahoo but it turned out to be a Cudda in the 50 lb class. Not what I wanted but fun none the less. So far this year the keeper AJ bite has been slow at best, this was about to change. As soon as we got set up on the wreck the bite was on. AJ’s were coming up all over the boat. Most were short but there were quite a few keepers. Jigging was hot but I only saw 2 keepers caught this way. I was still struggling to get a keeper so after about 5 shorts I thought I’d try a dead bait for some Mangos. I’ve caught some of my biggest this way. I quickly got hooked up with a 15 lb Gag. (Overall I released 5 Gags this trip). I then caught three straight ARS one of which was in the 20 lb class. No Goozers. As there were still some AJ’s coming up I switched back to live bait. That is when the sharks moved in. I caught two small ones but there were several large ones hooked including one of the biggest Black Tips I’ve seen. The mate said we needed to move. I decided to try one more time so I reached in my well and picked out a large re-tread Pin as I didn’t want to waste a fresh one. I got nailed before I hit the bottom. Everyone said I had a big shark. Everyone but me that is. I was confident it was a Large AJ after a nice fight (which included steering my line out of the prop) I was rewarded with a 47 lb AJ which held on to when the Jack Pot! Never give up! The rest of the trip saw a good mix of fish with some nice Red Grouper which included a 17 pounder caught by a lady angler who was not in the JP. Now that day light savings has arrived there is not much of an evening bite. The last stop saw some nice Mangos but they were just beginning to chew when we ran out of time. Back to back trips are a fun challenge and I paid the price but, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. As my favorite trips (over nighters) won’t go again till second week in April I am already “Jonesin” not sure what I’ll do. Any suggestions? See you out there! P.S. Special shout out to my friends 12 year old Bryan and his Dad! Look forward to fishing with you again. My kind of "Cooler Full" Jackpot Baby!!! Hope to see you when the season opens Me and my Buddy Young Master Bryan JP never gets old
  3. Left the big city of Hawthorne FL around 3:30 AM looking to beat the Tampa traffic and get to the South Skyway by Sun up. My goal was to catch around 50 small to medium Pins with the idea of turning them into some big Middle Ground Goozers. Everything went to plan and I arrived at the Skyway just about 6:30 AM. I saw a large group of fishermen right at the base of the bridge. I recognized a friend I call the Yankee Captain as he captains a party boat on Long IL NY and comes down to the bay area during the dead of winter for a little R&R which of course includes casting a line. I knew right away he was after the same thing as I so I stopped for a quick report. He said they were chewing. Since it was pretty crowded at the hot spot I decided to move on down the bridge to an area where I’d done well in the past. (Side note later on the boat my friend told most of those fishing were targeting Spanish Mack’s with great success). Well you know what they say about the “best laid plans” I tried three different areas and literally caught one fish. I attributed this to the fast moving tide. When I lived in St. Pete and had my own bait business I used to pay attention to the tides but since I only have a limited amount of time I just show up and deal with it. I made an executive decision to move on. My original goal was to catch a total of 100 live baits as two of my good buddies were coming up from Palm Beach and I try and catch enough for all of us. I hit a couple of Inter-Coastal spots and ended up with 70 mostly medium to large Pinners. No problem as Hubbard’s had enough to help me out. My only disappointment was I didn’t get many of the small ones (note: small to me is the size of your index finger) After meeting with my friends we loaded our gear with much anticipation. My friends are actually a pair of cousins I met as a regular on the boat that grew up together in South FL. These guys are a rare commodity as they remember a FL that is mostly gone now. The saying “They’ve forgotten more about fishing than most will ever know” certainly applies to them. Started out trying to troll with little success. I saw one Spanish come up. The water in shore is still a bit churned up so I wasn’t surprised. We started fishing around 1:00 AM in 150’ on a ledge Captain Bryon said looked “Fishy”. Over the next couple spots the action was pretty steady with Mangrove Snapper coming up all over the boat. I was fishing spot 6 which is in the middle of the stern and the current was running steady to the Port side. This made it difficult for those on the stern and with the boat being about ¾ full not everyone could move. I have developed the ability to cast an open face reel pretty well so this gives me an advantage. Especially when it comes to avoiding tangles. (Tip: To learn to cast an open face you must practice but one thing to keep in mind is you’re not casting the bait you’re casting the sinker. Message me and I’ll cover this issue more in depth). All night the Mango action was steady and in fact hot at times. Most people clamor to get on the stern and I am a stern burner myself but, not necessarily for the reasons you may think. Personally I like the stern more for convince and weather issues more than fishing success. I’ve had some of my most productive trips on the bow and depending on how many are on the boat the bow has a big advantage as it is easier to move from side to side. On this trip there was no doubt the best Mango action was on the bow. Several experienced people limited out on the first two stops. On the stern there was a heavier concentration of B- Liners and Porgies which made it hard to keep a dead bait down long enough for the Mangos to see it. This is when those small Pins are an ideal bait as usually a big Goozer or Grouper will cut through and hit it. (Tip: when using a live bait for Mangos you have to let them eat it as they rarely strike it like a Grouper. Mangos often take two are three bites before the take the entire live bait in. If you wind too soon they’ll drop it and they rarely come back once they feel the tug.) Live bait Mango fishing is challenging but often rewarding as Jack Pot size Goozers love the live Pins. (Message me for more details on this) During the night not only was the Mango action good but we continued to catch Gags, Red Snapper and there were 3 King Fish landed (one was in the 30-40 lbs. range). By the end of the trip I landed 8 Gags and at least 20 ARS one of which was 15 lbs. or more. Talk about good news bad news, as of the first of the year I've caught and released over 30 keeper Gags and more ARS than I can count. This is great news for the future but is a bit frustrating in the present. Once the Sun came up the snapper action steadily slowed down and around 9:00 AM the Captain said we were going to make a run to target some Amber Jacks. As we were now in “Blue Water” I decided to try my hand at trolling. The action was pretty good with three Blackfin Tuna and a rarely caught trolling AJ. I was using a stretch lure as were the two others trolling. I had two strong strikes but no hook ups. I guess that’s why they call it fishing and not catching. (Note: it can be frustrating when others are having success and you’re not but I try and keep the attitude that as long as they are biting my time will come as long as I keep learning and wetting a line). Overall the AJ action has been slow and with the new 34” size limit it has been hard to get a keeper. This trip saw some improvement as there was a higher percentage of keepers. One of my buddies actually caught his limit and won the Jack Pot. As the day progressed we had a smattering of Mangos, Porgies, B-liners and AJ’s. One young fisherman caught a nice Blackfin while anchored up which doesn’t happen that often during daylight hours. Personally I got “Hot” on Red Grouper and ended up with 3 keepers. The biggest got beat out on the Jack Pot by 4 oz but was still around 10 lbs. Overall there was the most keeper Reds so far this year. Two quick stories to end it. There was a fellow from Miami fishing next to me that had never fished for Mangrove Snapper and was catching only B-Liners and Porgies. After watching me reel up 8 Mangos in a row he broke down and asked me what he was doing wrong. After straightening him out (he was using only squid and jerking on the rod) he started catching a few and by the end of the trip he was close to his limit. He kept telling his 5 buddies “this guy is the Man”. Also when I got back to the dock there was a guy from My home town waiting to go on the All Day, as I was unloading my gear one of the other guys waiting for the day trip told my “homie” this guys is the best Mango fishermen I know and taught me how to catch them. Every good fisherman I know has a bit of an ego and I am no exception. When I hear stuff like this it makes me even more determined. Don’t know about being the best as I am continually trying to improve but if I can ever help either here on the blog or if we fish together I’d be happy to do it. My buddies holding Kings on the right Catch and release ARS Red Grouper were chewing See you out there.
  4. Fishing can be a humbling experience. Have you ever had one of those trips where nothing seems to be working and the guy next to you is doing everything wrong but is catching fish after fish? Well let me tell you my sad tale. The overall theme for this trip was cold, cold, cold. If you were out on the water this week you know the air was biting. My old truck (1990 Chevy) has no heater and the three hour drive from Hawthorne convinced me not to venture out to the Sky Way for bait but to focus on the back water to get some “Big Pinners” The combination of the extreme low tide and the muddy water made catching difficult at best. On a good day I can easily catch fifty Pins’ in a couple of hours but, on this day after four hours I had about ten. I was about to give up when the determination I bring to fishing made me give it one more shot. (Note: If you want to be consistently successful at catching you have to have a “Never Give Up” attitude. More on this later.) I decided to go back to a spot I have which was close to John’s Pass and the boat and use the rest of my time to see if I could get a handful. As I pulled up I saw two guys already fishing the spot. It turned out this was a father and son team and as I walked up the dad was pulling in a hand size Pin and was complaining that he just couldn’t get away from these guys. We became fast friends and over the next 45 minutes we pulled in about 30 big baits. (Tip: big Pins the size of your hand or bigger are the most consistent baits I’ve found to produce big AJ’s and Gags.) As I left I showed Joe and Joe Jr. a few pictures of what I hoped to catch with the baits they gave me and they were happy to root me on. I see an offshore trip in their future. As we pulled out of the Pass the first thing I noticed was how dirty and churned up the water was. It looked like that institutional canned gravy they used to serve us in High School. One look and I knew the trolling on the way out would be sketchy at best. The few that tried it gave it up pretty quickly as the combination of no fish and bitter cold wind was a challenge for the stoutest heart. Good time to rest up for the twenty straight hours of fishing to come. Tip: To have the best chance on any long range trip you need to discipline yourself to rest when you can and hang on the rail with a line in the water every chance you get. We hit the first spot just after midnight. Capt. Bryon said it was a ledge in about 150’ of water with a good show. After about 15 minutes the Mango’s started firing and I had 8 average size ones in no time. There was nice action on Porgies and B-Liners as well so everyone had some fish by the time we left. Did I mention Gags? Like last week we had plenty of catch and release Gags. Not as many as last week but enough that I heard several times “Not another Gag” man how times have changed. It appears the regs are working, I just hope Big Gov can find a way to balance conservation with common sense fishing that realizes the value of recreational fishing. For the rest of the night the action was pretty steady and even continued through the early morning. Around 10 that morning the Capt said we were going on about an hour run to a wreck and those who wanted to troll were welcome to it. Often during this type of move the action is pretty good with Blackfin Tuna, Kings and an occasional Wahoo. This time no luck. I think it was because of the water clarity being poor. Even out to 200’ feet the water is a bit cloudy with all the blows we’ve had. I think it is affecting the AJ’s as well as the Big Boys are still elusive. Once we got to the wreck a few AJ’s were caught but only 3 or 4 were keepers. I tried my biggest baits but all I could get was under sized AJ”s and more Gags. I decided to go with some dead bait and see if there were some Snapper around. Tip: when fishing for AJ’s on a wreck after you get your limit or the bite slows down try some cut bait or the biggest sardine/ threadfin you can find and fire them down. I’ve caught some of my biggest Snappers this way. With the dead bait I caught about a 15 lb. Gag, 3 Red Snapper in the 8 lb. class and got broke off once. No Mangos but great action. I also saw a few Yellow Tail’s come up as well. Fishing was sporadic most of the day with the action picking up late in the day. You remember how I said never give up and always keep a line in the water well thank the Lord I followed my own advice. Here I was half a sleep (Note: Not catching fish wears me out) with my back to the rail holding my rod to the side when Boom! I was hooked up. Tip: when the action is slow I usually soak a “Big Bait” with the idea if I have to wait I might as well wait on a “Big One” I was soaking the biggest Pin I had after what seemed like forever (probably 10 minutes) I felt the tingle on the line that my bait was being looked at. I got into action mode and when I felt the fish mouthing my bait I feed him a little more line and started cranking. It was clear to me I had on a decent size Jack and he was frisky. I want to thank all those fishermen that cleared the way for me to move across the stern and up the port side. I landed the fish on the bow and it turned out to be a 32 lb. AJ that held on to win the Jack Pot! Never give up as you never know what’s going to happen especially in the FL Middle Grounds. Most of the trip was slow for me but I ended up with 15 Mangos 1 nice jack, handful of other reef fish 5 catch and release Gags and at least 10 Red Snapper that had to go back. I also as usual ended up with a few stories that I have to share. I was fishing on spot 10 which is the stern spot on the starboard corner. There was a gentleman from Canada on my left and a Texan on my right. Together they humbled me. Neither of them were experienced at this type of fishing but both ended up with some impressive Mango’s. On the last stop the Texan caught 4 Goozers all in the 4-5 lb. range with is rod in the holder and his hands in his pockets. Now if you know Mango fishing this is not supposed to happen. Maybe once or twice but four times. The last one he not only had the rod in the holder but had stepped away from the rail and was putting away his gear. His rod started bouncing and all I could do was smile and say “hey buddy you got another one” he thanked me and promptly reeled up a 5 lb. Mango. Did I mention that on this stop I didn’t even get a bite? Now to my Northern friend. All throughout the trip he would get a bite jerk on is rod as hard as possible and occasional reel up a fatty. He didn’t catch that many (six or so) but all were nice ones. Every time he got hooked up he would hold is rod straight up and I would politely tell him you have to turn that handle if you want to get him in. He would then wind them up until his sinker was 3’ feet from the tip of his rod and then try and swing it over the rail. He hit me with most of them, with the last one finning me in the back. Every one he caught was bigger than any I landed. He also caught a number of Gags and Red Snapper. The funniest thing was early that morning I came out of the cabin and saw him loading up his bucket with my salted down handpicked Threadfin from my cooler. I’m pretty level headed but I have to say this type of action riles me a little. (Note: When in doubt ask as some fishermen are not as jolly as me) I softly informed him those are my baits. His response was priceless “Yours are so firm and thawed out while those over there are frozen. And besides yours are working” I couldn’t top that so I did the next best thing “baited and waited” Fishing can be humbling but most gratifying as well. There was a young man Jacob Lovelady on our trip making his first “Overnighter”. He’d waited all year and for a 13 year old that is forever. He started out the trip sea sick but to his credit he bounced back during the day. He caught quite a few fish including a 7.6 lb. Mangrove Snapper that won the Jackpot! Great to see a kid filling a fish box and not fiddling with an Xbox. Standing next to Jacob in the “Winners Circle” I was reminded why I can’t wait to see the beach in my rear view. (Note: Not pictured twin 9.6 lb. Red Grouper that split the grouper category.) Never want to see room in the cooler =)Get kids hooked on fishingJack Pot Baby!
  5. Well, it had been a couple months since I had the boat out so I decided that conditions looked good yesterday. Got out of work a little early and hit the outgoing tide in Clearwater. Stopped by the bait shop and got 4 dozen regular shrimp to try my luck at a couple sheepshead. Hit the bridge at honeymoon island just as the tide started ripping out. After about 30 minutes I figured I was wasting my time since I hadn't had one bite. Just when I was about to call it quits and move to another spot I got a good hit! Hooked up with something solid but he got off. A couple minutes later hooked up again and pulled up an undersized sheepie. Well, at least they are here I thought! After that the bite started picking up. Hooked quite a few but only landed a couple more. Finally put a 13" sheepie in the cooler so I figured at least I'm going home with something! Then it happened! I was bouncing a shrimp along the pilings when I got slammed! Expected to see a nice fat sheepshead but instead I saw a nice mangrove snapper! Got him in the boat and he measured a solid 15". A few minutes later got another 12" mango. Then a big hit and up comes a HUGE offshore sized 17" mango!! Topped it off with another sheepie in the 13-14" range. Headed in with a smile on my face since the boat was running great and the cooler had a couple meals in it!! Thats my Mid-February Clearwater Intracoastal report Keep em tight!!
  6. Saturday, July 25th 1 PM Want to get on some Snapper but don't want to go offshore for them? Captain Mike Cole will be here on Saturday, July 25th at 1 PM to discuss the ins and outs of Mangrove Snapper fishing in Tampa Bay!
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