Well, the ball has dropped, and no, I’m not just referring to the idiots at National Marine Fisheries Service. We’ll get to that soon enough… More immediately, I’m speaking to the beginning of the New Year. That’s right, it’s time to shake up the old snow globe and start all over again. So, in typical New Year’s fashion, I find myself pontificating. Am I optimistic or am I just plain crazy? It is said that crazy is defined as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. With that thought resonating in my head, my keen powers of deduction lead me to believe that my optimism may lead to a very tight jacket and a windowless room with rubber walls… Mu dilemma stems from the fact that I’m hopeful the NMFS will get their heads out of that place where the sun don’t shine and see the light. The light to which I refer is, of course, the blinding reflection from the refracted sunlight hitting all the red snapper residing in the South Atlantic!! I’m pretty sure the glare is blinding when viewed from the heavens. I hear that NASA may have to put polarized lenses on their satellites if they want to look closely at the East Coast of Florida. If you live beachside, good luck seeing your house on Google Earth! I’m not crazy, just down right mad. If a used car salesman and a lawyer had a baby, they couldn’t raise the child to be more crooked than the NMFS… I’m just sayin’…
So much for the kinder, gentler resolution… But really, am I the only one that is chapped about not being able to keep red snapper? Am I the only one that thinks that the four month grouper closure is bull sh#%? Let me let you in on a little secret. Grouper don’t spawn in January and February, they migrate.. to Florida’s coastal waters. They start staging for the spawn in March and spawn in April. The fish show up here in late December and leave to go back to the Carolinas before the May 1 opening. The real reason for the closure is to keep more of the quota in North Carolina where the fishing industry has support from their Government Representatives. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be any closure, I’m just saying that they had it right with the previous two month closure commercially with recreational fishing permitted.
The moral of the story is as follows… If you want to bottom fishing for the next four months, you might as well have somebody hit you in the head with a bat and hope the state of unconsciousness brings delusions of a fishing vacation where you can actually keep what you catch. Sure, you can still keep amberjack, triggerfish and various snappers other than red snapper, but just go ahead and try. Head out to 27 fathoms to try fishing for amberjack, you will end up catching nothing but 10# to 20# snapper and 15# to 25# grouper all day. Try fishing inshore for triggerfish, mangrove and lane snappers, good luck getting your baits through the seabass and red snapper. Hello bat, hello cranium. Honestly, it’s like a swift kick in the wedding tackle. If you do happen to be the catch and release type of fisherman, it’s Utopia.
The good news is that, although they were a month late, the Kingfish have finally made their appearance. Also good news is that the fish seem to be running bigger than usual. More good news is that they seem to be fairly plentiful, with fish being caught from Cris Benson thru 8A and down thru Pelican Flats. Need more? There’s been a fair amount of blackfin tuna and cobia mixed in with the kings. The catch here is that it’s tough to get a bait through the kings to the other target species. It’s a great problem to have, because the king bite has been absolutely blistering. They have been biting so good that most people have been drifting frozen sardines from a dead boat not even trolling. The mackerel have been averaging ten to fifteen pounds, but there have been numerous fish caught in the thirty to fifty pound range. The tunas have been chunky too, averaging near 25 lbs. Not that there’s much need, but if you really want to catch live bait, there has been some threadfin in the vicinity of the bight and the surrounding shoals.
As far as trolling goes, the sailfish bite has been pretty strong. There have been floppers (sails jumping lazily, landing on their sides) seen in as close as 70ft, but most of the trollers have been focusing outside the 100ft mark. There’s also enough dolphin and wahoo around to keep the trolling interesting. The blackfin tuna will also keep your on your toes. For the ‘fins and sails, you will want to troll naked ballyhoo rigged on monofilament leaders. Fish these rigs close to teasers and boat wash for the best result. For the wahoo, troll lures with ballyhoo or strip baits rigged on wire leaders. Fish these rigs further back on the outriggers, shotgun and downriggers. Although the tuna will sometimes bite the usual spread, you may want to add a small bubbling lure or chicken feather lure to the options. Also, if you see working birds or jumping tuna, you may want to try chumming as you may be able to attract the fish right to the back of the boat. If you succeed in chumming them to the boat, the tuna will hit a variety of freelined baits from frozen sardines to cut bait to live bait.
Whatever you do, get out there and enjoy it. Feel free to take a SAFMC member out with you, return trip optional…
See ya on the pond!!