Spring has been treating us well thus far. There have been plenty of Permit to rip some drag on the near shore wrecks and reefs, with a few stray cobia still hanging around as well. Big kingfish have not been as common as we would like this time of year, but luckily we have had plenty of other fish to keep us busy.
Tarpon fishing has started off well, with fish spreading out on the beaches where we are able to not only tangle with the Silver King, but do so while avoiding much, if not all, of the boat traffic so often associated with our area. It takes a little more patience and a little more hard work, but the reward is well worth it. Battling your tarpon in peace! With the weather that recently blew in the fish will certainly shuffle around a bit, but there are many times that single fish cruising are much more willing to eat than the larger schools found around pass proper.
As is usually the case with April and May, we have had about all the big amber jack we care to catch on deep sea trips. Once they start feeding, many are taken in heart-stopping fashion on top water plugs! There is nothing more exciting than watching fifty-plus pound fish crash surface plugs. These same trips are providing plenty of action on grouper, mangrove snapper, and some of the finest yellow tail snapper fishing this side of Key West. True “flag” yellow tail have been topping five pounds, with a good running average of over three pounds. Its amazing how many folks aren’t aware that the gulf coast offers the same quality yellow tailing as my home waters of the keys. Nothing is better than seeing that ball of gold surface behind the boat when the entire school of ‘tails rise up from the depths…dinner is served!
This year will likely see a shortened Red Snapper season of June 1 – June 21. We have been working to avoid Red Snapper, but if we push out to much beyond 120 feet in search of big red grouper and massive mangos we certainly cant stay away from them all. Be ready to take advantage of the short season on the Gulf’s most prized reef fish, the American red snapper. Most ARS trips will see lots of fire truck sized red grouper, scamp grouper (known as the “captain’s choice”)plentiful mangrove, yellowtail, and vermilion snapper, and even occasional run ins with mahi mahi, blackfin tuna, wahoo, true black grouper, and mutton snapper.
Unfortunately it is very unlikely that we will have an overlap of Gag and Red Snapper this year. Gag Grouper have been providing a constant test of light snapper tackle on near shore ledges where they are photographed, vented, and quickly released. Gags are slated to open July 1 and will be open until December 3. The best fishing will be October-December 3. That being said, summer gags give us a good excuse to take advantage of the calm waters and pleasant weather and run to distant grounds seldom accessed by recreational or charter fishermen. This is where the big boys live, with gags topping forty pounds the norm. Some of the best fishing in the gulf is just a boat ride away!