12/30 Englewood bottom fishing

Hey y'all. Made one last offshore trip in 2018 to fill the cooler and hopefully grab some gags before the season ended. Ran out of Stump Pass with dead bait and shrimp around 9 am, then went to a hard bottom spot in 80'. Nothing there but squirrelfish after 40 min, so we decided to check the Boca wreck out since the water was incredibly calm. Beautifully eerie and foggy morning, we actually saw a fog rainbow on the way out that looked incredible. 

Had to work to get a good anchor set on some structure off of the wreck in 100', but there was a real nice showing of fish down there, all clustered on the bottom as opposed to the usual clouds of bait and small snappers on the main wreck. Started chumming and fishing some sardines on the bottom to little success, then I decided to use a light 15-lb setup with a tiny knocker rig and some shrimp. That turned out to be the ticket, as we had solid and constant action on a variety of fish for the rest of the day. Lots of yellowtail were an unexpected but welcome surprise, mixed in with some chunky lanes and mangroves. Caught a lot of undersized scamp grouper, and eventually landed 3 gags from 21-23", just short of legal. Dad also hooked what we were sure was a legal RG or scamp, but turned out to be a very nice 4-lb whitebone porgy. Caught some grouper on bonito chunks, but other than that the fish didn't seem to want to eat finfish. Shrimp and squid had much more success than sardines or live grunts. I forgot how fun using light tackle is when bottom fishing, will definitely want to do this more in the future.

AJs were hungry as well, any fish we didn't bring up fast enough got hammered about 30 feet off the bottom. Got to fight some solid fish on light spin tackle, which was a TON of fun. They seemed pretty line-shy and didn't eat anything on our heavier gear, but if it hadn't been for them wrapping us around our marker buoy line I'm sure we could have landed at least a few of those fish on the light gear. Drag was set right and we were able to gain line on them slowly after letting them run. Definitely looking forward to getting back out there in the new year.

Ended the day with a glassy and absolutely gorgeous ocean and sunset, which I only slightly ruined by having my shoulder in the picture. Solid cooler of fish with great variety made for a yummy fish fry that night. All fish were caught on 4000-size reels with 15-lb braid, 25-lb fluoro, and 2/0 circle hooks. Didn't see much bait for most of the day, but there were a couple of schools visible on the ride back in. See you all in 2019.

Paddle faster, I hear banjo music.

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