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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.
Pac Blue vs. Rusty Bellies ! Looks like Todd Randa is putting on a clinic with the Jumbo RG's. He has been on a Serious Roll lately with these end of season beauties. Judging from the size of those plump nuggets, we are going to have a great fall fishing season!. "My friend Brian Willis and I went fishing. he got his first keeper grouper weighing around 15lbs. great day.. I also caught a keeper grouper and we also caught around 10 shorts ... Also caught a squid. all caught on the miracle jig.. Nekid Ball Jig. Even the squid couldn't resist it. My friend Todd, the owner of the patent really created an awesome jig. Works on pretty much any fish. Its unique design triggers the bite. Everyone needs to try it. Even my friends in MN. I'm serious.. All my poles have those jigs on them.." TR Thanks for the offshore field report Todd, Nothing more satisfying than seeing the results of a great day on the water with friends and family. Cheers TK
Barracuda Bob's Scores..... Just got this offshore report from our great friends at Barracuda Bob's. "Team Hootie who did it again! Caught their limit of red grouper in 18 minutes! All of with Barracuda Bob's Bait bait and another little secret weapon called the nekid ball jig! Thanks yet again guys for the super fresh fillets helping us who can't go fishing... Hootie who!" BB Big Thanks to Capt. Joe & Crew! Wow... RG Limit in 18 MIN.! Cheers, TK Just got off the phone with Marc Bonanno, he said that they not only caught the fish pictured. but released 15 more that were over 20". Marc had one RG that went over 15lbs and his partner landed One Big Fire Truck Over 18lbs.! They were limited out and on the way back to the dock by 9:30 with a boat load of grouper sandwiches. Marc is headed out again tomorrow and the guys will be banging the NBJ's off the bottom for more non-stop action.