Will be starting a 6 month assignment in Gainesville July 10th. I will be down for 2 weeks then home to NC for one weekend. I fish plenty of head boats up here on the NC coast so I am not a novice per se to the entire headboat scene, just to the gulf. So my question is what are some decent boats to fish during the weekends I am in Florida? Looking at it, Tampa is only about 2 hours or so from where I will be, which is about what I drive now for Saturday trips. so any advice on good boats, boats to avoid and any other tips would be greatly appreciated. I know there will be a bit of a learning curve so I will take a couple of trips to just listen and observe the regulars. Thanks for the assist guys!!!! I will bring my equipment down once we get settled in the project. so it will be probably late july or early august before I take my first trip.
Hubbard's Marina in Madeira Beach is pretty decent. Not perfect, but above average for service and performance in our area. I've only ever been on their overnight middle grounds trips, not their 12 hour day trips.
Been on the Queen Fleet once and Double Eagle once, both out of Clearwater. One was an absolute nightmare (worried that the clientele would be knifing each other and the crew didn't give a $&#^), the other was decent and well run boat. Unfortunately, it was so long ago that I can't remember which trip was on which boat...
If you've only got a few opportunities to get out there, you might get your best bang for your buck (and driving time) to do a two day trip on either the Gulfstar or Hubbard's. Gulfstar is more expensive, but EVERYTHING is included and it is a better boat. Hubbard's is solid (good enough that I will book a trip when the freezer is empty), and you decide on whether to pay for meal package and live bait separately (Get the live bait, skip the meal package).
General Gulf Coast bottom fishing stuff:
West Florida Shelf slopes very gradually; it takes 35 miles to hit 100' depth. Long hauls to the fishing grounds so learn to nap or talk to the regulars.
Folks who fish braid on head boats on our coast are hated by their fellow anglers and loathed by the crew. Braid and mono don't mix on crowded head boats, and braided line makes life hard on the mates. Stick to mono main line.
The lead you'll need is usually between 3-8 ounces, occasionally up to 16 in certain areas when the tide is ripping. But 3-8 is what you should absolutely have.
Bring some jigs if you like jig fishing. But go to the bow of the boat and get the hell out of the way of everyone else if you want to jig on a head boat. Just courtesy.
Grouper:50-80# main line, Snapper:30-40#. I go lighter than most other folks on the boat (especially for snapper), and I get more bites because of it.
Nothing wrong with bringing a 20# spinning rod for knocker rigging snapper. Use it only if you're on the stern OR you are fishing the down current side of the boat. Ditto for free lining for kingfish.
I bring my own because I prefer left hand retrieve plus I prefer lighter leaders than what they use..at least for snapper.
Was on Hubbard's Florida Fisherman ll. Hope they did as well as we did: