Middle Grounds Overnight Trip 9/26 and 9/27
Made our annual overnight September full moon trip to the Gulf middle grounds this weekend. Drove over to Steinhatchee from the Jacksonville area Saturday morning with high hopes for a good trip. Forecast had gotten better everyday this week and then we saw an slight uptick on Windfinder on Friday morning. Still seas were forecast to be less than 2 feet throughout the weekend and so we still expected to slay the fish. The ride out to the 92 mile starting point was pretty flat and Mark, Lee, Jerome and myself were pretty stoked about our chances of finding the big fish. Our first stop was about 10 miles out of Steinhatchee to jig up our live bait. Got a good mixture of sand perch, small jacks and various other "special baits" and filled up the livewell with about 60 baits. Second stop was an old shipwreck in about 140 feet. That spot fired up immediately and I pulled up a 31" amberjack. Lee followed that with a stud red snapper and over the next hour or so, we put some decent fish in the box. I decided to fire down a special livebait and within minutes, had a very nice 25 lb plus gag grouper on the line and in short order, in the fishbox. We all had really big fish on several times, especially Lee and Mark, that would live to see another day after either rocking us up or pulling the hook. There are some pretty big fish out in the Middle Grounds that will test your tackle. We caught a mixture of scamps, red grouper, amberjacks and various other fish until the bite slowed up after two hours. Decided to look for additional spots to prospect on, found one such spot and preceded to put more fish in the box. Made the decision to go ahead and anchor up for the night on top of some high relief structure. Found our spot and set the hook. Got the grill set up, some snapper fileted and seasoned and took some time to relish the moment and enjoy our current situation. After dinner, we set up the chum bag and preceeded to get a few beeliners and close to 30 mangos. The mangos fired up around 11 o'clock and they just can't resist frozen sardines with the ends of the tails cut off. We fished until around 3 am. The winds and seas started to pick up drastically around midnight and by 3 am, was ripping pretty good. Had a stiff 15-20 knot east wind blowing at us and after some high level discussions, decided to pull the anchor and head back the 90 miles to Steinhatchee. The forecast at that point was only going to get worst and we didn't like the idea of a 90 mile run back at less than 10 mph. By the time we got the anchor pulled, we were heading back in against 3-5 foot Gulf chop which isn't a good thing. Took about 8 hours to get back on land. Can't complain though, ended with a fishbox full of keepers and that strange desire to do it again! Great time on the water with friends! Here's a few pics that I have.