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I am struggling here trying to keep the reports coming when at best all we can get is one day a week to head offshore. The cold fronts and low-pressure storms have been relentless. As such, the ocean has continued to be dirty and stirred up.
I was able to get offshore one day last week, as Capt. Barrett and Capt. Jacob of the OIFC staff joined me aboard the Team OIFC Yellowfin. The plan was to capitalize on the nearshore grouper fishery that should still be prevalent, targeting gag grouper in 65-80 feet of sea. Well, the plan was good, but the reality of execution quickly became impossible.
The water 90-100 feet deep was absolutely putrid dirty out as far as 35 miles. The water only looks that bad after a hurricane, but it was just as bad. We wasted half the day beating our heads into the wall trying to make a grouper bite in these conditions before we said the heck with it and pushed offshore to the 100-foot depth range.
We crossed a hard color change and the ocean was a different place. Suddenly, the water was clear and 70 degrees—and the fish were biting. The next problem we had was the red snapper; yes, red snapper. Our government, which is much wiser than we are, knows the red snapper populations are in serious danger. As such, the red snapper fishery has been closed for more than a year with no plans of reopening. Well, I can tell you where there are quite a few big ones and they are hungry. Unfortunately, they are still swimming and not on my dinner plate.
Our live baits intended for grouper were gulped up by red snapper from 10-25 pounds. It was fun, but it does get old after continually having to release these beautiful and great eating fish. We managed to work through the snapper and catch our limit of gag grouper from 12-18 pounds. We also caught a couple of kings and false albacore on the light lines.
I talked to some other fishermen who fished up toward the Frying Pan Tower, where they specifically targeted kings. They reported fair action within sight of the Tower, but the bite was not red-hot. The Gulf Stream continues to produce wahoo, but with the weather so sketchy, it is hard to count on conditions that are suitable to travel this long distance.
That’s pretty much the report for this week. I wish there was more, but maybe next week. At this moment, my fishing crew, along with many other Carolina-based king mackerel tournament fishing teams, is preparing to travel to Biloxi, Miss., to fish in the Southern Kingfish Association’s annual championship tournament. The event draws teams from all over the Southeast and the northern Gulf fishery and is one of the best tourneys in the country, if not the best.
I will have a report from this adventure as well. Hopefully, a Carolina team will succeed in bringing the title back home.