The Tuesday trip started out with great promise as my friend Omar and me not only caught at least 70 nice Pin fish on the Skyway but he’d loaded up the day before on the 1/2 Day trip with a variety of large baits. This combination of baits and the great weather seemed the “Perfect Storm for me to end my Gag drought as four trips without a keeper Gag was more than enough. Surly, the Grouper Gods will allow me one keeper. But it was not meant to be. More on that later.
Trolling on the way out is still a challenge as it continues to be slow. However trolling between spots proved very successful as several nice Blackfin Tuna were landed along with a Wahoo in the 30 LB class. We started around 1:00 AM hoping for some Mangrove Snapper action. All night the Mangoes were elusive. It was hard to get them on dead bait as the Vermilion snapper were more aggressive. To remedy this I used only live bait, this pattern held true all night. I ended up with a dozen fat Goozers through the sunrise bite. Had two unfortunate experiences. Fist I had a Goozer in the 9 LB range come un-hooked as I tried to lift him over the rail.
The second mishap occurred just after sun rise. We’d been holding anchor steady with the rope trailing off the starboard side when suddenly the current shifted and the anchor heading was now directly off to port. I’d been staying with the live bait but had just hooked back to back Amber Jacks so I decided I would switch to dead bait and see if I could land one more “fat snapper” before we moved on. All night I’d been using a rod and reel set up with 80 LB test just in case an Ole Gag stopped by but I didn’t get any takers. My dead bait rig I use 60 LB so that is what I cast right down the new heading. My instinct was correct but my tackle wasn’t. No sooner had I hit bottom when Bang! Big Fish ON! Try as I might I couldn’t get enough cranks on what I’m sure was a nice Gag before he broke me off. Little did I know this would be the only Gag bite for me the entire trip.
Night bite over so time to target some Red Snapper. A few came up during the night but none worth mentioning. Upon further review my dozen Mangroves was the high mark for the boat. To my surprise some of the best anglers on the boat it turned out caught little to no Mangroves. My great friend Cliff who I’ve seen limit out many times didn’t have a single Goozer. He’d tried using live bait to no avail. Not only had he not landed a Goo but caught eleven small AJ’s in a row. I wish I could report the Mango bite got better but it didn’t. I only saw a hand full come up during the day which left by buddy with zero for the trip. Happily this is a rare and I know we are going to slay them on the next one.
The bulk of the day bite saw mostly Red Snapper with a few Gags, nice Red Grouper and Scamps as well. On the ARS front the boat essentially limited out and the real news, the average size was the best this year. (Side Note: I’m still leading with the biggest ARS on the overnight trips with a solid 19 ½ LB beauty caught the first weekend of the season. My friend Capt. Joe reminded me had a party land one over 22 Lbs. Upon which I replied “I don’t count the Hot Shots in them there speedy boats and their whipper snapper Captains’
The best thing about this trip by far was watching two young anglers at work. One the nephew of Captain Garett, Levi caught some impressive fish including the biggest Scamp of the trip. Also my young friend Ryan whose father has taken him on several trips continues to impress. He did a masterful job of landing a Blackfin while we were anchored. He looked like a real pro as he bobbed and weaved between us old guys on the rail. It does my heart good to see a young man cranking a reel instead of starring into a video screen. Got to sign off now as I’m getting up early to catch bait. Got to stop the no Gag streak.
See you out there!