Goozers on Fire!

As this was a 44 hour trip leaving at 10:00 AM I came down on Thursday to catch bait on the Skyway Pier. Fishing with my friend Omar we managed to get 130 decent baits even though we did have to hunker down in my old Chevy during a classic Tampa Bay Summer storm where the wind was at Hurricane force for a few minutes. I love the 44 HR trip as it gives you a chance to fish all night and the chance for some awesome snapper action. Trolling on the way out on a 44 is usually better as well given you get more day light in deeper water. This trip would prove true on both counts.

After a slow start trolling heated up and several nice Spanish and King Mackerel came over the rail as well as a Barracuda a Blackfin Tuna and multiple Bonita. Trolling between spots the next day was not as good as I thought it would be but there were a few Kings landed and several cut offs.

We started just before sun down. I fired down a big Pin hoping for a chance at a nice Gag but got an instant bite from the near extinct Amber Jack. After this warm up and being a glutton for punishment I fired down another but got no action. As Captain Bryon says the first stop is “Always the toughest” due to a lack of anchor heading. Now that we had one time to move.

The next several stops were a bit slow with a few Mangrove Snapper, Porgies, Vermilion and Red Grouper coming in. With near perfect conditions I was hoping for more. They say “Hope springs eternal” and if that means they (Goozers) were about to chew then spring it did.

The next stop was around 1:00 and the moon was straight overhead. Having no luck with live bait I switched to Threadfin and caught a Mango as soon as I hit bottom. Over the next two hours the bite got steadily better and so did the size of the Mangos. I was using my snapper rod with 60 lb. test line and Threadfin for bait. During an intense bite I cranked down on what I assumed was another Goozer when BANG! Big fish ON! After a few tense moments I got cut off by what surely was a large Gag. The fish were biting so good it was hard to stay disappointed.

The bite on the next stop was even better as I could feel the fish actually fighting over my bait. I made the decision to switch to live bait even though they were chewing on the dead bait or any bait for that matter. My thought was I might increase the size of my average fish. The strategy paid off as the fish seem to get bigger and bigger as the moon went down. There were a couple of anglers next to me that were fishing with electric reels using a “Chicken Rig” baited with small pieces of squid. They saw how many I was catching and asked what they should do. I encouraged them to switch to a rig like I was using. One of them did and started catching Mangos. The other didn’t but close to sunrise when the bite was most intense he caught back to back double Mangos. Once again during an intense bite I got slammed by a big Gag. I thought I had him coming but he took some drag and popped my line. Looking back on it I should have switched to my 80 lb. rig as the fish didn’t seem to care.

The fish continued to chew and on one cast I got slammed before my bait was 10’ down. Turned out to be a nice Blackfin Tuna. Just before sun rise Captain Brian came over the speaker and told us the boat had reached its limit of Mango Snapper so we couldn’t keep any more. That means we caught around 500 Mangos in essentially four hours. As I’d caught a tuna I decided to flat line a live bait and see if I could get another. Sure enough I felt by bait begin to run and just knew I had another tuna but, you guessed it, it turned out to be a Mango around 8 lbs. Realizing there was no way to get away from catching Mangrove Snapper the Captain made a big move hoping to target Grouper.

The day bite was just the opposite of the night bite. As hot as it was at night the day was slow to nonexistent. To be fair there were some decent Red Grouper caught and Mangos came up occasionally which had to be thrown back. All I could manage was AJ’s and throw back Red Grouper as well as Red Snapper. No complaints from me except the Tuesday trip was cancelled and I have other obligations this coming weekend so it will be a couple of weeks before you hear from me again. Good luck to all that go during my absence.
Special shout out to my friend Bob, you were missed.

See you out there!


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