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Cedar Key trip in pursuit of first keeper gag

NobelNobel Junior MemberALTAMONTE SPRINGSPosts: 82 Deckhand
New to FS fishing forum. First fishing report posted.* After fishing bass tournaments and exclusively freshwater for the last 20 years, I'm finally getting back to the Florida saltwater (spent many days in my youth fishing in the Keys with the family). * I'm totally hooked and excited about learning how to catch all the various saltwater fish out there. My 2 boys, wife, mom, and dad share my saltwater fishing enthusiasm, but not to the same out of control extent as me.* About a year and a half ago, we bought a couple of condos in Cedar Key and a 19 ft. Key West skiff so I've been slowly learning the waters in Cedar Key when I get a chance to go over for a few days.* I live in the Orlando area so I've also made a few day trips over to Crystal River as well. I love fishing the Big Bend area and hope to develop some fishing buds through this forum.
Last week we made the trek over the Cedar Key in pursuit of my first keeper gag before the close of season.* Two previous trips to Crystal River produced only a few shorts.* After having a few too many Monday night, which was my birthday, my fishing crew ( mom, dad, and wife) and I headed out Tuesday morning 12/27 around 10:30 a.m., a little later than planned. We went north to an area I call my mountain dew rock piles in 30 foot of water.* During a previous trip in October, *I was able to find this area thanks to someone who tied off a mountain dew bottle as a marker.* I was able to identify this poor man's fishing marker and found this spot with a bunch of rock piles within close proximity to each other.* We trolled through the area at about 4 knots with dorado and fire tiger colored 30ft.xraps and immediately hooked a few shorts, with one just missing the 24 inch mark.* After going a while with no strikes, we moved out a little further to about 33 ft. We had no luck with the gags so we decided to let the girls catch us some sea bass and grunts on squid for dinner.* After getting enough for a fish fry, we went back in pursuit of my first gag out close to 40 ft. We only caught one short gag and a few more sea bass in the 40 ft. depth so we decided to head back to the mountain dew rock piles.* We caught a few more shorts and I was starting to think my first keeper gag was going to elude me again.* With the sunset starting to get lower in the sky and Dad complaining about how they needed to get back soon so they could walk the dogs, I knew we only had a few more minutes to fish for the day when suddenly...wham! Both rods bend over at the same time.* A couple minutes later my dad and I brought aboard keeper gags. *27 and 26 inchers.* Check mark on my first keeper gag and a nice cold one for the ride in.

Next day, Wednesday 12/28, we got another later start, but this time due to the fog that lasted all day.* Dad and I headed out while the girls went shopping.* We went back to our mountain dew rock piles and started the day with a double hook up on the same lure.* Done this a time or two with bass, but this was a first with gags.* Unfortunately, both were a little less the 24 inches.* Ended up catching one keeper gag at 27 inches for the day and probably 15 shorts, including a 22 1/2 incher on a trout rod with 15lb. braid, 30 lb fluro, and a jig head with a gulp 4 inch new penny shrimp while bottom fishing. **

Some observations: We only used a few different color lures, but dorado color xrap seemed to be the best. Also, the xraps say they use 3x's hardware, which I assume means their split rings and hooks. However, we had two of the keepers stretch out the split rings. One ripped it off the lure completely. Luckily it was stuck by both hooks, otherwise, it would have gotten away. Anyone have this issue and a solution or different type of split ring they use?

After a fun night eating fresh fish and having a few celebratory drinks, we headed back to reality Thursday morning.* Great trip over to Cedar Key.* Next on my list, sheepshead.


  • Sixth GenerationSixth Generation Member Posts: 910 Officer
    I used to troll for them in the Bayport area when I lived in Tampa. Usually in the 20-30' range. I have had the same thing happen on the split rings and was going to tell you that usually happens when your drag is too tight or two fish hit your lure, like I saw in your photo's. It sure is a fun way of fishing for them and sounds like you have it pretty dialed in. I had a friend that taught me about trolling for them. We used #2 or maybe they were #3 planers and used Bomber Magnums in chrome gold or blue firetiger. The chrome gold always outfished the blue firetiger though. The planers were about 3" wide and 5" long. We would use 40 lb test from the planer to the lure. Heavier line would slow the bite down but I am not sure if it was they see the line or more likely I felt was the lure lost some of its action. The best time I remember was early October when the stone crab traps were just put out. Actually I did not have a GPS and would just run a heading and watch the water depth on my finder. When the crab traps went out they are on hard bottom and we would troll through them to the north and south. We would go to Mahoneys Tackle in Tampa and get 4X rings and hooks to put on them, but if you lighten the drag that will work as well. I remember they did not fight much with a face full of treble hooks... Take care out there and good luck!!!
  • capt louiecapt louie Moderator citrus countyPosts: 10,881 Moderator
    Welcome aboard, newbies buy so I'll have a cold brew. :USA Great first report ! I agree with SG in that a locked down drag will pull a split ring. Recently had my first one stretched out by a pair of big grouper on the same plug. But that is the only time I can recall ?
    I use a snug drag with room to add more if needed. Not locked as I use mono to troll with.

    I like the soda bottle name. One of my best grouper spots is named Dasani rocks for the same reason :wink
    "You'll get your weather"
  • barhopper51barhopper51 Senior Member Posts: 561 Officer
    Well done, Nobel. Always nice to see a new face in the area.
  • Ruff OneRuff One Senior Member HomosassaPosts: 2,280 Captain
    Nice report. Welcome to the world of grouper trolling. I have changed all my trebles hooks out to single inline hooks. All the factory rings have been replaced with 200# rings. I troll shallow so I can't afford to give them any slack or I am rocked up. My drags are real, real tight.
  • Rick1-2Rick1-2 Senior Member HorseshoePosts: 968 Officer
    nice report and great catch
  • xmuskyguidexmuskyguide Senior Member Beautiful HomosassaPosts: 1,981 Captain
    Good to add to the bucket list especially such great eating fish. Looking forward to future reports. :thumbsup
  • SlackerSlacker Senior Member Homosassa, JaxPosts: 1,815 Captain
    Great first report, thanks for the input. I do not hammer my drags when trolling, I feel by the time he hits it he is a distance from the rock and I have the advantage.
    Pay strict attention to Ruff One. If he says hammer it down in shallow water, do it.
    Welcome aboard.
  • FishesmanFishesman Senior Member Posts: 418 Deckhand
    I'm with Ruff on setting drags. I like them tight, but not necessarily hammered down. After a hook up, I like to keep the motor in gear until I'm clear of big structure. Stop too soon and big fish will dig back down even with a tight drag. They can do this because there's a lot of line out when trolling. You may have them past the structure they were hiding under, but there's usually plenty more rocks around for them to make a run at.
  • Ruff OneRuff One Senior Member HomosassaPosts: 2,280 Captain
    You're right on Fishes. Add cobia to the mix and you have a drag dilemma. Since both fish hang on the same structure, if you have your drag set tight for grouper and a cobia hits, the cobia will probably pull off. If you loosen up your drag for cobia and a grouper hits, there goes your 25 dollar plug. So, what to do? Here's ours, maybe not scientific, but it seems to work. We put the drag tight, but not hammered down. From catching both on the troll, it seems that most if not all grouper bulldog right toward the bottom, so we leave the drag alone. Cobia seem to head for the surface and most tailwalk. We immediately back off the drag to the middle position on my lever drags. Gail and people that fish with us seem to have this fire drill down and went the shout "Cobia on" goes up, the drags get loosened. Seems to work.
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