The last few days have been pretty uncomfortable conditions along the reef. The winds have been blowing 25 or better out of the NE since Monday. We were able to do some fishing inside the reef edge, in 10 to 20 ft. This fishing has been productive for several reasons, the water gets very dirty, almost looks milky. The fish move in from the edge to feed on these shallow patches as well as moving from the back side (Gulf) because the water begins to cool down and gets into the high to mid 60’s. When this occurs the patches become alive. Schoolie size Mutton snappers 5 to 10 lbs, nice keeper groupers which will range from 5 to 20 lbs. Mostly we catch red groupers and black groupers. Also we will see a few larger mangrove snappers 3 to 6lbs.
This can be tough fishing though, light tackle in shallow water with lots of rocks and sea fans can make things pretty challenging to say the least. Our secret is a good drag system which the Penn Spinning reels provide. Knowing the difference between a snapper bite and a grouper bite is also important. These fish fight completely different as the snappers will stay near the bottom and run and try to cut you off in the sea fans. The groupers will stay on the bottom and try to get back into the rocks, since this is where they spend most of their time. So this is why it’s so important to get the fish up off the bottom quickly and then you can begin to do battle. The bite from a grouper is sudden and quick as all the fish is doing is sucking the bait in and running back to his rock. The snappers will do nothing more than pick at the bait several times at first and then pick it up and begin to eat the bait as it is swimming away so you have to let him eat the bait before setting the hook. The best way we have been able to come up with is really rod tipping the fish, this way he can’t get you back into the sea fans. We also catch plenty of sharks and many other great sea creatures. The bait stays pretty much the same. We have been using more pilchards lately since they have become more plentiful along the shoreline with all the cold fronts moving through.
In closing I can’t give you much info on the sailfish just for the simple fact it hasn’t really been fishable on the outside of the reef edge. The weekend outlook is pretty good and we will be out there so stand by for our next report!
Captain John Oughton