Fishing Reports...The Search for Big Earle continues




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December 16th

Today's crew consisted of some good buddies, Greg, Bubba and Phil. The morning started out a little choppy with an easterly breeze and a gorgeous sunrise. We started in 56ft with no luck. The tide was close to slack so we headed farther offshore. In sixty two feet, the Florida snappers were willing but the groupahs were not interested. We set up a trolling pattern using stretch thirties and started putting some fish in the boat. Greg's first groupah was a nice seven pounder, his second fish weighed in at twenty-one pounds back at the dock...he is now officially spoiled for life. We tried bottom fishing a promising looking spot....Big Earle was home...as I was using the throttle to hold us over a spot, he grabbed my bait and took me for a ride before getting to the rock and breaking me off...arrrrggggghhh! There are some nice fish out there that you just can't turn if you are not ready for them.

By noon, the wind fizzled out and left us with flat calm seas for the run in. Bottom fishing produced a couple of nice 10lb fish but the bite was slow all morning. After some personal instruction, Phil hooked a fine ten pounder on the bottom and coaxed it to boatside:) Trolling was far more productive today, it pays to be diverse in your methods and to be prepared for different fishing styles. Some days the fish just do not want to cooperate and flexibility to the key to success.

We started early and stayed later than intended but managed 10 nice groupahs anchored by Greg's slab of a nice fish....a great day on the water with some fine gentlemen and fantastic December weather. My apologies to the wives whose dinner plans were interrupted but everyone went home with several dinners worth of fillets.

Between now and the one month closure Feb 15th to March 15th will be the best chance to catch a big fish or two. When the weather allows me to get offshore, I will guarantee some fish and a good time on the water. Book your charter now!

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December 3rd

Saturday's SEC Championship game marked the end of regular football season and time for a return to offshore fishing. The TUNER is back from the shop and raring to go. Sunday's crew was retired football coach and legendary rod builder, Paul Bagby, and a couple of his buddies from Georgia....Bill and Nick. Coach is in the process of building some charter rods for me. Sunday was the time to put a couple of his prototypes to work.

We headed out the channel during a winter low tide with the knowledge that the water would be moving well all day offshore. The early morning was overcast and cool, with a gentle swell from the west. Our first stop was a spot I rarely fish, a tiny little crack in the limestone. We were immediately rewarded with a couple of grey triggers. Coach insisted on keeping them "in case we don't catch anything else". He's been fishing on the wrong boats lately! The slight breeze offset the current well and we were able to do short drifts for most of the day. With no need to anchor, I was able to fish with the guys. We put a few more nice fish in the box, a couple over 12 lbs. As I was tossing one of the groupers in the fish box, it flipped a chunk of ice that hit me right between the eyes...thus the bandaid in the photo below:)

I was using a 7 foot medium action rod that a nice fish can put a serious bend in....Coach inexplicably was using one of his custom snapper rods and grunted like a red drum every time a gag over 6 lbs took his bait. The next stop was a couple of miles away so we trolled a couple of stretches. A small kingfish hit one and was released no worse for wear .....surface water temp was 64 degrees... The next stop was a small piece of live bottom, Bill and Nick caught some nice fish including some pretty red snappers that had to go back in the water. A short time later, Coach hooked Big Earle...the snapper rod and 50lb test were no match for a 20+ lb grouper...the line parted just above the hook.

By late morning the fog closed in to make the ride in damp and challenging. The radar is invaluable in avoiding collisions with other boats and navigating the channel. The fog finally let up in the river, I enjoyed spending the day with Coach, Bill and Nick and the fish cleaning lady sent them back to Georgia with some fresh Florida seafood!




Early November

The boat has been in the shop for some warranty work on the motor. I now know more than I ever wanted to regarding bearings, seals, grease and dodging semis while changing same on the side of the road:) After a break for Thanksgiving, the Tuner will be on the fishing grounds regularly. The bad news is red snapper season is closed and NMFS is considering regulations that place the recovery of the stock squarely on the backs of recreational fishermen...who didn't cause the problem. The good news is the next five months offer the best grouper fishing of the year, so make plans now!




October 20th

The forecast for Saturday started out rough and got progressively better during the week. This week's crew was four guys from the HVAC mafia in Atlanta. We met at the dock on Friday evening and decided to grab some dinner... the broiled shrimp at Fiddler's was especially tasty. As a special treat, Doris, my wife and best fishing buddy decided to go along. We agreed to grab some breakfast before heading out in the morning.

At 6am, there was a line around the Bridge End and no lights on inside so breakfast was a cup of Sea Hag coffee and some Nekot crackers. With no moon and an overcast sky, there was no light going out the channel. The smooth river water turned into a familiar Gulf washboard chop as we cleared Marker 1.

First stop: a small rock in 55 feet. It took a while to find and get set up but we were rewarded as Chris's rod folded over with a fine red sea possum. We caught a couple more fish and headed offshore, trolling and looking for one of those spots that makes your day.

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It's a little early for gags to be hungry enought to chase down a trolled lure but there have been some kings in the area....we caught squat for our efforts and got back to bottom fishing. A new spot appeared on the bottom machine...we caught some fish and, with no other boats in sight, decided to anchor and get a chew going. Tom popped a nice red snapper to start things.

As the bite was about to kick into high gear, a small HydraSports appeared and headed straight at us. Nothing bugs me worse than a no-talent, scumsucking number stealer. It's a big ocean and I don't own any of it but there's way too many places to fish for me to crowd anyone or attempt to take a number from them. We pulled the anchor and went on to other places.

The fishing was spotty but the wind diminished over the course of the afternoon. We finished the day with a nice limit of red grouper, several red and Georgia snappers, a few gags and a lost spanish mackerel for good measure.

This is exactly the kind of trip I had in mind when I started chartering. We enjoyed the day and hope to see Bill, Tom, Chris and Drew again soon.

The fishing is getting better as the water temp drops, the surface water is 4 degrees cooler than last Saturday. There were a number of kings caught in closer and a bunch of snapper caught in deeper water. Can't wait for the next trip.

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October 13th

I had the pleasure of fishing with six gentlemen from Waycross, Georgia today. We started out with cool temps and a leftover swell from the NW. We were treated to a beautiful sunrise. First stop was in 55ft that produced five red snapper and a couple of gag grouper. We alternated trolling and bottom fishing the rest of the day, found some new spots that produced fish. The wind fell off in the morning and we finished with red snapper and red grouper limits as well as several nice gags. The ride in was on a glassy sea.

Everyone caught fish....some more than others...these guys are welcome back anytime.




October 5th

The fishing is predictably starting to pick up offshore. We have several charters booked this month and will be shooting a sailfish video later in the month. Check back for some interesting photos starting next weekend.




September

The dog day heat is beginning to noticeably wane, sunset is a little earlier each evening and the sea surface temp is slowly dropping... all signs that the best fishing for the year is on the way. September's fire will be missed when we have to don long pants and sweaters...until your rod doubles over. The best grouper fishing is on the way and bringing scads of Kingfish with it. October and November will offer a buffet of bottom and pelagic fishes to catch.




Labor Day Weekend

Are you ready for some football? I'll be off the water attending SEC football games for six of the next nine Saturdays. All repairs on the boat have been completed. The reels are packed with new line. It's still Africa hot out there but the cooler weather ahead will bring the best fishing of the year.




Week of August 15th

The Tuner is back at the house getting some much needed attention for the next two weeks...engine and drive fluids are getting changed as well as some cosmetic repairs....etc....back on the water soon.




Saturday, August 5th

With no charter today, I decided to do some scouting for new snapper spots a little closer than the ones from last week....although we caught a wad of fish, running to 100+ feet and back takes a good bit of the fishing day. The crew was first mate, Doris and fishing buddy Darren...otherwise known as the Puddy Tat. We left the Sea Hag at a leisurely 7am with calm seas and a light breeze from the southwest. There were puffy clounds on the horizon. The radar showed the remains of an evening thunderstorm at 60 miles and heading west.

The first stop was in 60 feet on a small and relatively unknown spring in case a gag was hungry. Just as I trolled a pair of stretchs across the opening, the port rod bent double. The drags were set at 18 lbs and this fish had no trouble ripping some line off. First thought was "big King" but that quickly changed to "BIG grouper". The Puddy Tat was on the rod in a flash to no avail, the hooks pulled after 30 seconds.

We decided to drop some baits down to see if we could entice the bruiser into a verticle game of tug. It took a while to get set up on the right spot...but the first fish was exactly what we were looking for...red snapper! We released several sub legal/barely legal snapper for every keeper, ending our drift with 7 nice fish. From there we ran to 70 feet and slowed to the "econocruise" scouting speed of 20 knots. Over the course of the late morning and early afternoon, we found several nice new spots that produced max size grunts, triggerfish, a few red groupers and three more nice red snapper. These spots will hold good numbers of gags in the cooler months.

With a line of showers forming to the south and east of us, we made for the hill at 35mph on glassy seas.

Total trip running time: 8.1 hours

Fuel burn: 29.2 gallons

Catch: 10 red snappers to 9lbs

Sea surface temp: 89 degrees

A happy wife: Priceless