Started out the new year with a fishing trip with a great bunch of guys, going offshore with Capt. Joe Miller. We went out about 10 miles to fill the livewell with fresh baits, we wanted to be sure to get away from any red tide that might be inshore. First stop was an Aj spot, and our offshore Rookie hooked up first and after much coaching, kidding and b*ll busting he put a nice AJ on ice. Soon we had another Aj on the line and he just made it into the boat before the sharks showed up. Some were in the 6' range!! We managed to land a decent black tip and quickly decided to abandon the Ajs and go for red grouper. I stuck it out with the jigs for the first hour or two as the bait fishing was slow. Seemed every new spot would yield a couple of keeper grouper and then the bite would shut down. I kinda believe it was the rocked up fish that we lost that shut the bite down. We would move and a few more would be on ice. For me the jigs kept me busy, but mostly smaller grouper and some nice lane, vermllion and mangroves would bite the jigs along with some smaller scamp grouper. By early afternoon the fish began to cooperate and two to three fish on at a time was the norm, specially when we arrived at a new spot!! Didn't seem to matter what bait you used, the bite was on!! By 2pm we had our limits of red grouper, all over 22" with two or three fat fire trucks. We then switched over to light tackle and began catching some real quality snapper, although the mangroves were not on fire, we caught at least two or three per man as well as some VERY nice lane snapper, biggest I have ever seen, as well as some true flag sized yellow tail snapper. I was catching double headers on a chicken rig!! Oh! I forgot to mention that we were nailing the porgies as well, over two dozen!!! My biggest was about 5#, I was sure that it was a margate at first. Our "offshore rookie" was probably high hook as far as the grouper and mangrove snapper go. As usual we came home with enough fish that we each took home well over 35# of clean fillets!! As usual, Capt Joe Miller worked from 4am getting the boat ready, until 8pm cutting the fish for us. One of the hardest working men I have ever met!! And a great guy to boot!! I am writing this from a motel on the road, will post pictures when I get back home in Penna. I will return in about 6 weeks to SW Florida and will definitely get back out to fish with Capt Joe as often as I can!!
We headed SW out past 125 looking for AJs and then worked out way back in to about 105 looking for grouper and snapper. We managed to only catch and release one big gag and two smaller ones!! I was surprised to be catching lanes and yellowtails on chicken rigs! They were so aggressive that the guys with sardine baits were cleaned off the moment they hit the bottom. I switched over to octopus and they had a tough time stealing that. (Forgot to mention that one of our guys lost his rod & reel when a fish slammed his bait and he was holding his rod loosely in a fighting belt! Never saw that before!! Capt. Joe said that is the third time in two weeks aboard his boat that rods & reels were pulled overboard!)