All I want for Christmas is a Gag on the line!

You know you are dedicated (or crazy) when you find yourself on the Skyway before sun rise fishing for Pin fish with the temperature around 45 degrees in 25 knot winds. With this being the last 39 hr trip of Gag season I was happy to do it. The catching was a bit slower than usual as I think they wanted to stay in the warm water. Persistence paid off and we managed to get a nice size mix. Tip: it’s always better to have a fishing buddy and this is especially true in tough conditions when you feel like giving up you can look at your buddy and say well he’s still here. It helps that my pal Larry spends half is time in Canada so he can remind you “This is nothing”

We left the dock on time with a full load as everyone wanted to get on this last chance for Big Gags. Trolling near shore is still a bit slow which I attribute cooling water temps. Just before dark we had a big fish on which turned out to be a Cuda in the 30 lb. range. At least the weather is improving. Now time to get some rest and get ready for the action to come.

Capt. Garret said we were going to make a brief stop to get an anchor heading before heading to a wreck. Tip: When running your own boat take a little extra time before hitting your first spot and get an anchor heading. This is especially true if you are attempting to fish a wreck or a small structure. Having to re-anchor is rarely a good thing as it often spooks the fish. We got on the wreck around 1:00 AM and the bite was steady but not red hot. The Capt. asked us not to start with live bait as we didn’t want to fire up the Jacks. After about 15 minutes we got the go ahead to use lives so I fired down a mid size bait. I got action fairly quickly and pulled up a nice Goozer. After catching a few more nice ones I got slammed by what could have been a nice Gag but it cut me off too quick to tell. Firing down another live bait I got slammed again. This time there was little doubt I had a Goliath on. This particular spot is known for some monsters. I lost this one as well.

Some may call it stubborn I just call it not liking to loose so I got out my heavier tackle and fired down a hand size Pin fish. It barely got to the bottom when Bang! Monster on! After about a 15 minute battle up came a Goliath in the 200 lb. range. I am proud to say it was successfully released and especially happy a young angler got it all on “Go Pro” Throughout the rest of the trip he was watching the video and asking me questions. I felt like a super hero with a side kick. For me it doesn’t get any better than this as it brings my heart joy to see a kid get hooked on fishing. Time to leave the Monsters alone and search out something we can keep.

The next few stops before day break saw steady action with nice Goozers and Gags coming up. Just before sun up the Gag bite was getting hot and Bang! I was hooked up. I just knew it was a nice Gag but it turned out to be a Red Grouper in the 15 lb. class. Can’t complain about that. The bite slowed so time to get on a fresh one for sun rise. I fired down a livey and got “insta bite” I pulled up 3 straight Gags that were all around 23”. They are fun but don’t fill up the box. Excited I dropped down again and caught a Gag over 26” Firing down again big hook up that I couldn’t turn so break off. Dropping again Bang! Gag attack. This one I could feel hitting the rocks but I managed to turn it and had it coming up. This one had to be over 20 lbs. but I will never know as about half way up it came “Un-Buttoned” Nothing is more frustrating than this. He definitely had me in the “stuff” as my leader and main line were scared for 20’.

On the next stop I had two big hook ups but couldn’t land either of them. One cut me off and the other rocked me up. I managed to get him out of the rocks but my line was so frayed it gave way on the way up. Can’t say I didn’t have my chances. I would get broken off two more times while using 100 lb leader. This is aggravating but it also keeps me coming back.

The next several stops we got on big Vermilion Snapper with most in the 2-3 lb. range. This action can be fun but I like to target big fish which often feed on these. The best way to do this is with live bait. It requires patience but it can be rewarding. On the first of these two stops I landed four nice Mangrove Snapper with the smallest around 4 lbs. and the biggest over 8 lbs. On the second stop I was soaking a livey while people were slamming “B-Liners” I began to think about switching when Bang! I caught 2 nice Goozers a Gag and a keeper Red Grouper in successive baits. Remember patience.

The Capt. announced we were going to make an hour long move to get in an area he thought held Gags. With much anticipation I got in the bunk to rest up. About 30 minutes into the move the boat slowed and the Capt. asked were there any medical people on board. Not knowing what was happening I woke up one of the great regulars who I knew was a paramedic. Turned out one of our crew was having a health issue. After calling the Coast Guard it was decided he needed to be air lifted ASAP. We needed to get the boat ready for the impending helicopter which puts out 90 knot winds. As fate would have it one of the customers was an Army Medivac Pilot. He led the effort to get us ready. With the professionalism of the crew and the great attitude of the anglers all worked out well. It’s times like these when you realize how blessed we are to live in a Nation with great people willing to serve. Everything went off without a hitch and I am happy to report the crew member is out of the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. This event ended the trip early and the crew member expressed disappointment his situation would cut the trip short but I told him just get well so I can chastise you later.

As this is likely my last report before the New Year I wish you and yours all the best and may you get some nice tackle under the Tree.

See you out there!


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