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Hungry Gags!

Finally, a chance to go fishing. It’s been over a month and if you know me that is an eternity. I know it is getting bad when my wife asks if I’m going this weekend with a hopeful look in her eyes.*
*With my friend Larry back from his annual Canadian migration we set out to meet my Pin Fishing buddy Omar on the Skyway. The bite was pretty good and in a couple of hours we had 150. This left us time to hit a few spots in search of some hand size ones irresistible to Gag Grouper.
* In spite of the threat of 4-6 Ft seas we headed out with 30 anglers and high expectations. We had the treat of the owner and Captain Mark Hubbard at the helm. I started fishing with Mark almost 30 years ago and he knows where the fish are. The bite was hot from the start as those trolling caught Spanish Mackerel as soon as we cleared the channel. Trolling was steady until sun down especially for the famous “Jig Head” Ed who caught a nice mixture of Spanish, Kings and Bonita.
* We started fishing just before 3:00 AM and the bite was hot from the start. Mangrove Snapper were coming in from all directions as well as a nice mix of Gags and big Vermilion.* Fishing on the bow was a bit of a challenge as the seas were at least 5’. Tip: When fishing in high seas it is still important to keep your sinker on the bottom with as little movement as possible. The best way to do this is to keep your rod tip high. This enables you to bob with the waves and avoid the jerking motion with the tip down.
*The next two stops before sun rise saw more of the same.* Nice Mangos and Gags. I was primarily using Threadfins but people were having success on Pins as well.* By dawn I had a couple of Gags and a Goozers in the 8 LB. range.
*Day light so time to target some Gags.* The set up I use is an 80 LB rig with a single 8/0 hook. I generally hook the Pin Fish under the chin and through the top of the nose. *Since the area we were fishing in had particularly sticky bottom I shortened my leader down from my usual 6’ down to 3’. *Even with this I got hung up multiple times and broken off a few more. *On one stop I fired down a big Pin and before I could get the slack out of my line BANG! Big Fish ON! *Cranking as hard as I could I still got rocked up. As soon as I slacked the line I felt the fish moving I cranked but was rocked again. This process happened several times so I deduced the fish was free but the sinker was caught. I decided to take the chance of letting the fish run a ways. Sure enough he popped out my sinker and the fight was on. Once I determined the fish was clear of the bottom I slacked up. It is important to control your excitement because your line is likely frayed. I was rewarded with a nice Gag in the 15- 18 LB range and just as I feared *my main line was frayed at least 30’.
* The remaining stops we picked Mangos and we had the best Gag catch I’ve seen in a while. The boat caught 40 or more. Personally I caught 7 keepers (made some friends when I gave them away) 5 shorts and multiple break offs. On the last stop I cast straight off the bow with a big Pin. Within a minute I got slammed by a monster. Try as I may I couldn’t turn him. Undeterred I through down a second and got slammed again with the same result. *Putting down a third hoping for a third strike and Bang! This time I managed to turn him and landed a Gag close to 20 LBS. I ended up catching two more keepers on that spot.
*It was a terrific trip but the highlight for me came back at the dock when my good friend Tyler Osborne won the snapper Jack Pot. Tyler has made great strides in his fishing skills. He told me he looks forward to reading my reports and finds the tips most helpful. It makes my day seeing someone passionate about what I love so much.
*Special shout out for long time mate and now Captain Jeff who recently broke his leg while working on one of the boats while in dry dock. Keep him in your thoughts and prayers for a speedy recovery.
* See you out there!


  • releasegearreleasegear Posts: 768 Officer
    great work and report!

    Mike Wilhite - Fisherman/President

    Born Offshore Gear

    'Performance Fishing Apparel'
  • harbisonharbison Posts: 4,396 Captain
    :fishing Great! Wish I could have been there.
  • JohnABJohnAB APOPKAPosts: 224 Deckhand
    Holy moly..looking at the pot winning grouper makes me wonder if I didn't walk away with a winning fish not thinking it was big enough! It was a good but not great trip for me too, just didn't do as well on the mangos as I usually do...using a new set-up and just wasn't keeping the bait on the bottom good enough. With the grouper, the bigger the bait the quicker you were bit. Caught mine on big grunts I caught with a chicken rig..lost that rig when something hit it while I was bring it up. Too bad on a 39hr trip ,though, it took almost 26hrs to get out and back. It would have made more sense, given the weather conditions, to have traveled to a spot a bit closer then the northern middle grounds.
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