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OFFSHORE questions &; answer section for depths 30 feet and out. FAQ's

capt louiecapt louie Posts: 10,939 Moderator
OK people , this section is for questions on fishing the 30 ft and out range in the Big Bend region.

I'll make it a sticky so anyone looking for answers on rigs and tactics can post here and everyone will be able to use the information.

Please , no inshore questions.
"You'll get your weather"


  • TW22TW22 Posts: 37 Deckhand
    Just restating my question for TC from the thread that started this sticky:

    What depth are you catching Red Grouper at right now?

    Have you ever tried fishing for Muttons out of Cedar Key? (15 foot leader bottom fishing like they do off of Jax) Have you ever caught Muttons with any consistency? I have attempted this many times, but it has been in water 50 feet or less, with no muttons. I think I have to be deeper.
  • Top ContenderTop Contender Posts: 619 Officer
    TW22 thanks for the kind words!

    What depth are you catching Red Grouper at right now? Guaranteed limit of pigs, 100-120' but they can be had in 45'-80' just have to work harder

    Have you ever tried fishing for Muttons out of Cedar Key? (15 foot leader bottom fishing like they do off of Jax) Have you ever caught Muttons with any consistency?

    Yes we catch them out of Cedar Key, generally in 130'-180'. I don't do anything different for them, 100# leader 8' and a dead minnow. As far as consistency goes if you catch 2-3 on a trip I'd be thrilled, you can catch more but it's hard. If I was going to try for them the Elbow would be your best bet. They can and are caught in the Middlegrounds also, generally the southern end. May through October is the preferred time.
  • TW22TW22 Posts: 37 Deckhand
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I don't think there's a lot of people in your "league", so to speak, who have the ability or are willing to run that far out. After having followed a few of your posts, one can definitely tell you guys know what you are doing and I think it's awesome you're willing to share some of what you know.

    I think a lot of people are like me: have a bay boat with a 50-60 gallon tank and usually don't run any further than 30-40 miles out. But sometimes those tricks at 100 feet work great at 30 feet. The other day I learned your "grouper knot" that you guys posted. After trying it a couple times I was scratching my head and asking myself why I had been tying any other knot for so many years. Things like that are the little details I truly appreciate. If I see you at a tourney again, I'll introduce myself and buy you a beer. Tight lines. Thanks!
  • Top ContenderTop Contender Posts: 619 Officer
    Thanks TW22, look forward to seeing you.
    I grew up fishing in 30'-70', I remember thinking 80'-90' was super deep for our area. I slowly started easing farther and farther out until I was eventually making 100-150 mile runs, sometimes out and back in a single day.

    All of these things that work out deep will work in shallow, they may have to be scaled down a bit.

    I'm glad you found the knot helpful, it's a good one and easy to tie. It's nice to be able to help other anglers out, lord knows I've had plenty of help along the way. I hope we can build a common love for the sport and the hater/bashing will go away. It's a good feeling being at an event or tournament and camaraderie is prevalent. No one should be giving the numbers out to the new wreck they found, but to share a tip or tactic will better someone else and generally come back for the good on yourself. I won't claim to know everything or be the best, but I love fishing and love to learn everything I can about it. For that reason alone I'm willing to share and help others fuel their passion.
  • C F MikeC F Mike Posts: 141 Deckhand
    Top Contender
    I'll start by saying thanks for starting this thread. Its great for people getting into offshore fishing. My wife and I started 3 years ago and learned a lot from this forum and THT. Then it was all trial and error (still learning and having lots of fun)

    My question is we have a great area out of Crystal River in 80' at a heading of about 255 that we fish two or three times a year around now for red grouper and it never lets us down for limits between 25" and 30". I was wondering if you know if that area was affected by the red tide before we make the long run out.
    Thanks, Mike
  • Top ContenderTop Contender Posts: 619 Officer
    You're welcome, hopefully some folks will benefit from it.

    I think you are gonna be in good shape that far south. From what I've seen the worst appears to be north of 28 50 in 40-80'. If you aren't seeing what you like then I'd definitely work south instead of north.
  • Doc StressorDoc Stressor Posts: 2,791 Captain
    CF Mike, that heading out to 80 ft takes you to an area that I sampled and surveyed back in August. It was completely dead. It was dead at least as far south as the 13 fathom curve area, which is a 244 degree heading out of CR. You should be good out to about 47 ft. After that its pretty bad.

    We dropped a camera at several wrecks in 55-60 ft a few weeks ago. Other than a couple of sheepshead and a small number of AJs, it was depressing. The sponges and soft corals were gone for the hard areas. The flat rocks looked like the decks of an aircraft carrier. There was bait that looked like tomtates stacked up over some of the rocks. No grouper, hogs or grunts on the bottom. Just an occasional seabass. 47' and closer looked mostly fine with the live coral and sponges and the normal species of bottom fish.

    It will be interesting to see how the recovery goes this summer. In the really dead areas it will take a while since there will be little to eat for many miles.
  • C F MikeC F Mike Posts: 141 Deckhand
    Thanks Top Contender & Doc.
    The Gag grouper were on fire west of Crystal river in 30' in November, but we never ran out past that. (didn't have to)
    I think when we finally get out we will try out of Hernando Beach and head a little south and try between 60' and 90' (off of Hudson)
    Has that area been affected ?
  • mburke001 aka TripleBmburke001 aka TripleB Posts: 1,598 Captain
    Hi, I'm starting to fish offshore from CR, i'm curious about Seahorse Reef, been reading some good info on the fishing there. Was wondering about drifting south of the Seahorse Reef Light, Looking at Navionics I don't see any potential rocks etc. Thanks
  • Top ContenderTop Contender Posts: 619 Officer
    My commercial diving buddy says no, as well as a couple hook and line guys I know. If I'm that far south I'm usually 130' and deeper. They have been killing the hogfish down there so carry some shrimp, best depths for hogs are 45-65' and I like ledges.
  • Top ContenderTop Contender Posts: 619 Officer
    Mburke001, that's a bit too inside for me. I can tell you that the 30' line on your charts is loaded with bottom. You'll have to work for keeper grouper but they are there. If you just want meat there's all the grunts and rock bass you care to catch. Also good kingfish and mackeral and some cobia by late April.
  • mburke001 aka TripleBmburke001 aka TripleB Posts: 1,598 Captain
    Ok great, I'm just transitioning into "my offshore" from having a small boat to an offshore boat. Thank you for the reply.
  • FishesmanFishesman Posts: 418 Deckhand
    Mburke001 - Seahorse is right on the edge of what I'd consider the boundary between inshore and offshore. It's really known for its Spanish mackerel fishing. It's also a great place to catch trout in the warmer months. You can also catch a few kings and cobia in the area. I don't know of many rocks in the vicinity. Generally you have to run a few miles further out to get to good grouper bottom.
  • mburke001 aka TripleBmburke001 aka TripleB Posts: 1,598 Captain
    Fishesman: Thank you, I'll probably going to hit that area Monday, supposedly 1 foot seas and no rain (not use to that) and if nothing I'll head further out as you said and hit that 30' line suggested by Top Contender; Appreciate both inputs.
  • TW22TW22 Posts: 37 Deckhand
    With the northern grouper season right around the corner, just wondering if anyone has ever had any luck trolling for grouper during April and May? I know this technique works during the fall, but never tried it during the summer and spring? I'm planning my trips out and just wondering if I should even bother trying to troll.....

    I'd be pulling Mann Stretch 30 (50's where deep enough) and Rap Mag 30's. Mainly Manns.
  • Top ContenderTop Contender Posts: 619 Officer
    I don't troll often but my favorite time of year has always been April and may. I've caught fish in as deep as 100' trolling lures with planers or weights on electrics with braid. The most accessible fishery in state waters will be from Alligator Point west in the NW region. While the rest of our region has some keeper gags within 9 miles they are few and far between. Honestly I feel like this season probably puts an undue stress on the fishery over there as everyone trailers in and trolls that limited stretch of productive water.

    When gags were open in the spring in past years I would fish in the morning and we would troll for lunch and eat. I generally focused on 30'-60' doing this and had great success. It's a great way to find new bottom and chill out for an hour and eat.
  • SalmononeSalmonone Posts: 71 Deckhand
    I'm a rookie offshore guy. I have family coming down the last week of March. I would love for them to tie into some amber jack, shark, cobia, grouper, anything big that would fight hard and look cool in a picture. Any advice on what would be the easiest fish to target and what techneque to use?

    Thanks for all the great info!!!
  • Top ContenderTop Contender Posts: 619 Officer
    Where will you be heading out of?
  • SalmononeSalmonone Posts: 71 Deckhand
    Generally Cedar Key but willing to travle a bit north or south
  • Top ContenderTop Contender Posts: 619 Officer
    Cedar Key is a good spot for what you want to do. White City bridge should have some Jacks on it and possibly a cobia or two depending on what our weather does. There should also be some mangroves there I would imagine. I'd drop shrimp and cut bait on the bottom and pick up some live bait from seahorse reef and drop sabikis on WCB for bait for the jacks.

    There is also a barge in 50' off cedar key that's somewhat public, it's a good spot for jacks and cobia as well. I'd have to dig through my numbers as I haven't been to it in years.

    Depending on what size boat you have and what you're looking to do would dictate where I fished. If the two reefs sound good to you I'd hit those and then fish in 45' out from cedar key for grunts, rock bass, grouper, hogfish and kings.

    Keep it simple, knocker rigs and live bait , sardines and cut bait. I fish 80 mainline and 80 leader inside of 100' and like 6/0 - 8/0 hooks. Usually use 6-8 oz of lead. Give a spot 20 minutes and if you aren't catching fish or seeing lots on your machine keep moving.

    This type of fishing will keep your guests busy all day, the jacks look good in pics and the rest fills the coolers up. Good luck!
  • mburke001 aka TripleBmburke001 aka TripleB Posts: 1,598 Captain
    Hi Capt., I retired down here in Citrus County 2 years ago, my fishing is sporadic mostly on the negative side. Monday went out I hit various areas including 30' ledges surrounded by 20s etc. including the one artificial reef off of Crystal River 5 miles out; I was using live shrimp and finger mullet and using knocker rigs and fish finder rigs while drifting. Didn't catch much, blowfish, small snapper, flounder and 2 black bass. Just wondering Is there something I should be doing more. Tks.
  • TW22TW22 Posts: 37 Deckhand
    Thanks for the trolling advice TC
  • Top ContenderTop Contender Posts: 619 Officer
    Mburke001 - the shallower you are and the closer in you are the more pressure the fish are seeing. My suggestion to anyone fishing inside of 100' is to anchor on the spot and develop the bite. Give it 15-30 minutes max, if you haven't caught what you are looking for move. Sometimes the fish are spread out or not real active but when they see the little guys feeding and tearing baits up they will move in and take over. Just remember action brings more action.

    The #1 most important thing to a bottom fisherman is his bottom machine. If you master it you can lose all your numbers or fish from somewhere new and be confident you will catch fish. I can't stress this enough, it is the most important thing! There aren't any books or videos that really tell you how to do this. It's either trial and error or hire someone to show you. Once you get really good you can distinguish species, you can tell gags from reds. Mangos from red snapper and so on.
  • mburke001 aka TripleBmburke001 aka TripleB Posts: 1,598 Captain
    Top Contender, Thank you for the advice, I've been drifting & not anchoring on any spots. I'll give that a try this week and let you know. As to the bottom machine, I'm assuming that goes for every machine, even the Lowrance 5 Elite Chirp that I have. Tks
  • Top ContenderTop Contender Posts: 619 Officer
    Make sure you have your anchor rigged break away style and a ball to retrieve if you don't have a windlass. Those two things will make the anchoring job a lot easier for everyone.

    Each brand is different but ultimately show you the same thing. I'm a Furuno man, easy to dial in and paints a great picture as do their radars. Furuno is the only one I like when run on auto settings, I will only do this in water less than 100' though.

    Basic bottom machine rules, 200khz inside of 400', whatever depth you're in turn the gain up until you see clutter then back off a hair. I like a white background, some people like blue or other colors, white paints the fish and the bottom better to me. If I'm hunting for small breaks or fishing deeper than 100' I always have one screen zoomed in to a 20-40' picture. If your machine has a bottom lock feature, use it. This will show fish only and no structure. Split the screen and run the other side normally. Learn to recognize the difference in sand and flat rock with no relief. A properly tuned machine will show everything while running 35mph. Big spots are great, but everyone can find them, learn to see the small stuff.

    Tuning these things is a hands on deal, different units and different transducers act a little different from one to another. The most important thing is to pay good attention to it while moving and learn what different changes on the screen mean.
  • ANUMBER1ANUMBER1 Posts: 13,229 AG
    Fish bottom, not fish... turn up the gain and fish the edges.. soft/hard/shelly...hard/super hard.
    no, don't ignore the fish but bottom produces consistently.
    I am glad to only be a bird hunter with bird dogs...being a shooter or dog handler or whatever other niche exists to separate appears to generate far too much about which to worry.
  • mburke001 aka TripleBmburke001 aka TripleB Posts: 1,598 Captain
    Top Contender: I'm glad I asked, since I have time now I'll work on the Lowrance as you advised and also rig the anchor. Thank you
  • No-limitsNo-limits Posts: 54 Deckhand
    I'd like to do an offshore chart with labels of the different areas, every time I give advice to newbies going deep they have no idea what I'm talking about. Chris, you think you could label a chart with common areas ie: clover leaf, gully, Greek thumb ect?
  • Top ContenderTop Contender Posts: 619 Officer
    Yeah I'm sure I could, I don't know why one hasn't been made. Add the little elbow, the 21 hump, three angels and so on. I'll look into it.
  • mburke001 aka TripleBmburke001 aka TripleB Posts: 1,598 Captain
    Thank you Anumber1 for the advice
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