Coming off back to back trips which included the last ARS trip and the first after ARS I’m going to combine them into one report. As the ARS season ended on Wednesday we had to be back by midnight that day so instead of a typical 39 HR we went on a 32 HR. This led to some creative strategy by Captain Bryon. He decided to hit some areas that were a bit closer than we normally fish so we could get as much actual fishing time as possible. The only drawback to it being a 32 HR trip was we fished during the traditionally slowest part of any trip which is from noon to 4:00 PM and had to leave just when it usually picks up again late afternoon till sun down. This put a premium even more than usual on the night bite.
We started around 11:00 PM amid flat seas in steamy conditions. This made a solid anchor heading impossible. Getting a Mangrove Snapper bite was difficult at best with the only decent bite being directly on the stern. Throughout the night fishing the bow was made even more difficult as the boat was literally floating on the anchor. Fighting the anchor and the heat took a toll as by sin rise many were in their air conditioned bunks. Those that that persevered were rewarded with the best bite of the trip.
Since the starboard side was devoid of anglers I moved down the side to spot eleven which is close to the corner of the stern. My friend Craig was on the stern corner and told me he’d been getting good results with live Pin fish. On my first two casts I nailed fat Goozers. I missed a couple after that but on my next cast as soon as it hit the bottom Bang! Fish ON! Turned out to be a big Red Grouper in the 12 LB. range. Next cast produced a nice Gag and after that another keeper Red Grouper. After this flurry I noticed I had company as word leaked out the bite was on. I caught back to back ARS before we moved. They were both around 10 LBS. and ended up being the biggest of the trip.
The rest of the trip was spotty at best but there were decent Red Snapper and Red Grouper landed on every stop. The best fish of the trip was a Gag Grouper in the 20 LB. class. The overall highlight of the trip for me was not what I caught but seeing what my friend Arshad caught. He was making his second overnight trip and hails from Lexington KY. We’ve been corresponding since his first trip and he has impressed me with his eagerness to learn. Upon his arrival he informed me he wanted to troll but lacked the equipment. I showed him what he needed and I am proud to report he landed a nice Bonita and a “Smoker King” To have someone actually listen and learn and then see the joy of success on their face brings me great joy as well.
With the end of Red Snapper season many regulars told me they looked forward to it ending because the hope was we would now focus on the best overall fishing and not the hunt for ARS. We started out around midnight with the hope of slamming some Mango's. From the beginning the Mango bite was problematic. They were not only slow to bite but the Vermilion were aggressive. Usually I can use live bait to mitigate this but this time it was ineffective. I did manage to catch a few but mostly they simply didn’t bite and when they did they would snatch the bait off and miss the hook. I did manage to get one nice Red Grouper and a decent Scamp but overall the trip was slow. Before the trip I predicted I’d get a 20 LB. ARS as the season was closed. Didn’t quite hit that projection but the ARS bite was fairly hot. I did managed to catch one around 12 LBS. I also caught a Scamp around 5 LBS and a keeper Red Grouper. Red Grouper were chewing and several in the 15 LB range were caught but many were short. For the first time in recent memory no Gags were caught. To my knowledge none were even hooked up.
All in all it was a pretty slow trip for me with one major exception. Late in the afternoon I dropped down a nice Pin fish. I’d been soaking Pins on every stop with little success. Dead bait was producing mostly Vermilion and Porgies. Nice fish to be sure but I was hungry for something big on the line. This drop I’d been down only a few minutes when Bang! BIG FISH ON! Something started stripping drag. At first I thought it might be a big Grouper possibly even a Black Grouper (One under sized Black had been thrown back). After a few tense moments on the bottom the fish started coming up but just as I thought it might give up it went back down. At this point I didn’t think it was an AJ based on the feel. I could feel other angler’s lines on mine but the mates and the fishermen helped and the fish surfaced about 40’ off the stern. It was a large Cobia. As soon as it surfaced it turned down again. I managed to get it back up but there were even more lines on him now including several hooks that were threatening to go in my rod tip. First mate Will did an excellent job cutting the hooks free. I made the decision now was the time to get him in as I was afraid the hook or line might give way. I made 3 short pump and winds and Will reached out as far as he could and gaffed him. Turned out to be a solid 40 pounder. Talk about a trip turner. (See video on my FB site.)
Time to head home for a week off. Get some rest and come back fired up for the weekend.
See you out there!