Picking with little ginning

Started the weekend catching bait on the at the Skyway south end. I knew it was going to be a banner bite as my line had a few kinks in it so I cast it out with no bait and bang a Blue Runner it hit a bare hook. It would be the first of many as the Runners were thick. I always like to get a few Runners but they are hard to keep alive for the length of time I need them. They make excellent AJ bait (too bad they are closed) but big Gags like them too. I was hoping to flat line a few for some big King action. I ended up throwing at least 20 back but kept a dozen but only about half made it to the fishing grounds. Pins were biting real good and caught 80 in about two hours. First time I can remember catching that many Pins and not catching any other species like Grunts and Pig fish. Side note, there was a young man fishing next to me that was killing the Spanish Mackerel. He was using what appeared to be a 2-3”silver Clarke Spoon attached to I’d say an 8’ leader with a 3oz bank sinker. He would cast it and reel it in fast. He was getting 18-24” Spanish on almost every cast except when a Blue Runner would beat them to it.

Trip left on time with over 40 anglers eager for some action. The conditions appeared to be excellent as we had 15 knot winds and seas 2-3’ should make for a solid anchor heading. We went through a few squalls and the wind picked up to 20 I’d say but it was manageable. Trolling on the way out was spotty but some nice Spanish came in as well as some nice Kings. As usual my buddy “Jig Head Ed” was on fire. I got to say I have never seen anyone dominate a type of fishing like Ed dominates trolling. He can catch fish trolling when no one else can. If I was a tournament fisherman I’d be looking to get him on my boat.

We started around 12:30 on what Capt. Bryon said was a fishy looking ledge. The Mangrove Snapper bite was slow but I was certain it would pick up once the moon came out. The hoped for chew never really materialized. Fishing is a funny thing as just when you think you have it figured out Mother Nature lets you know she is the decision maker. (Happens at my house too from time to time) With the approaching storm and the overall conditions I would have bet you we would have at the very least a decent chew but we picked at best. Between every stop people would come up to me and ask how’d you do? When I told them they’d say “well that makes me feel better cause if you aren’t getting them no one is” I take it as a compliment but I’d rather hear about all they caught as I like catching stories better than fishing ones.

On the first stop after sun rise I shot down a frisky Pin hoping for some Gag action. I soaked it and re-cast several times and even put a fresh one on but all I caught was bottom. (Catching bottom would be an issue all day) As I saw a few Mangos come up I decided to switch to a Threadfin. First cast I was hooked in the bottom. After several bounces it came free and as I was letting it back down Bang! I knew it was a big Gag. A few tense moments I knew he was up but now I was worried about my leader. Tip if you think your leader is frayed go easy on him, no jerking just keep steady pressure (just enough to keep him coming) don’t loosen your drag as you want to get him up as quickly as possible. Instead of drag use the rod by dipping it when you feel pressure. Don’t give slack put use the rod dipping motion as a pressure reliever. Steady wind. It takes practice. If you see me I’ll give you a demonstration. I managed to get the fish up and it was a nice Gag around 18 lbs. My friend Dan asked me what I got him on and I told him so he switched to Threadfin and landed a Gag around 14 Lbs. Several more came up and I had another hit and also landed a nice Goozer.

We moved several more times before noon but the best we could do was pick at them. I picked a snapper here and there but overall the action was slow. The only species that seemed ready to chew was small Red Snapper as they were hitting on most every stop. As the heat of the day approached I wasn’t holding out much hope as that is usually the slowest time of the day. But you never know. Right about 2:00 I cast a nice Pin and Bang! Big hit. It turned out to be about a 5 lb. Mango that hit so hard he missed the bait and got foul hooked. Well as I always say “anyone can catch em’ in the mouth” takes a pro to hook them in the side. I promptly fired down another and Bang! 12 lb. Gag, shot down a third got a big hit but missed it fired down a fourth and landed a 22” Red Grouper. One of the other anglers a few spots down from me casted out in the direction I was hitting them and landed a Jackpot winning Gag around 15 lbs. He also got broken off there. Tip: remember while your “*****in to keep fishin” as the only cure is to crank one in.

On the next spot I suffered my biggest disappointment. I dropped down a nice Pin fish which promptly got hung on bottom. I managed to get it free but lost the bait. Upon reeling in I checked my leader and it still looked good so I fired another bait down and Bang! “Insta bite” I knew I had a big Gag at least 20 lbs. Just when I felt I had him off the bottom and was about to let up on him he was gone. I assumed he came un-button but to my dismay my leader had broken just below the swivel most likely the result of an undetected fray. No matter how long I do this and how many fish I’ve caught this type of stuff haunts me. It keeps running through my head “what could I have done differently” Fishing is truly an obsession for me but there are worse things to be hooked on.

The remaining stops we saw more picking but we did get on one spot where the AJ’s took off. Most were boarder line legal size and since the season is closed didn’t add to the catch but it was nice to see people get excited about catching fish that are often the biggest thing they’ve ever caught. Time to go home but not before one more bit of excitement. About 15 minutes into heading back wouldn’t you know Ed was trolling a new “Cow Bell” lure and BANG WAHOO! He landed Monster just under 60 lbs.

Hoping to go out this weekend as this is the last 39 hour trip as the boat will be in dry dock for 2 months. At the time of this writing there is a storm coming so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Man 2 months I might just go crazy. Any suggestions?

See you out there!


  • harbisonharbison Posts: 3,400 Captain
    John, great report as usual. While the Florida Fisherman ll is on dry dock the Flying HUB ll will be fishing the Grounds and vicinity every Wednesday & Saturday. Takes two hours to get out there. Suggest we give her a try!
  • john martinjohn martin Posts: 143 Deckhand
    I plan to do just that Bob!
  • ECGEOECGEO Posts: 12 Greenhorn
    John, Good to meet you on that trip and appreciate all the tips. That was my first one but I will definitely be back. Although the bite wasn't super hot managed a nice stringer of 10 Mangos a small Scamp and an assortment of others. Will say it can get frustrating watching you reeling them in the opposite corner. George
  • john martinjohn martin Posts: 143 Deckhand
    Enjoyed meeting and fishing with you as well George and look forward to doing it again
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