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Cool and Windy - Groupers and Redfish

Capt. Alex Crawford
December 19, 2008
Carrabelle - Saltwater Fishing Report

The fishing report is short and sweet this month. Inshore the hot ticket is redfish. Offshore the best bets are gag groupers and mangrove snappers on reefs and wrecks.

The best baits are fresh frozen cigar minnows, fresh frozen white squid and frozen Lys. Live baits like pinfish and pigfish may be taken with sabiki rigs in at least 70 feet of water. As the water cools, the pinfish tend to move farther offshore seeking more comfortable water temps. Finding live bait in winter is an inexact science to say the least. The one caveat is mullet inshore. Commercial anglers are still finding mullet and throwing their castnets on them. Most are eating size and too large for inshore species like flounder, trout and reds. But smaller mullet will work for anything that swims including big groupers and snappers. On your way running offshore, keep a sharp eye out for schools of mullet. Have a good mullet net at the ready and know how to throw it.

If you can buy live shrimp, they are the bait of choice for most inshore target species. Trout, reds, flounder, black drum and others will eat a live shrimp when they will not take any other baits. If you can trap small pinfish, they are another excellent inshore bait choice. Try the BP in Carrabelle for live pins. Sometimes they have them available at a reasonable price, when other tackle shops have none. Phone (850) 697-5111. These are very friendly folks who are plugged into what's biting and where. Leave your number for a call back if necessary. Frozen pins will work as a last resort. For offshore target species like amberjacks, grouper and snappers try other frozen baits like Boston mackerel, tinker mackerel, ladyfish, croakers and catfish. Cut the spines off the cats to make them more appetizing.

The Government Cut is a good place to start your inshore trip. You may find redfish in big numbers willing to eat your baits. Frozen shrimp works well at times, fished slowly on bottom. Live pinfish are one of the very best baits for reds in the Cut. Try just inside the west jetties. Remember to do unto other boats in the Cut, as you would have them do unto you. Wakes are a definite no no! Please stay clear of other anglers casting from the jetties. They are limited as to where they can fish, whereas you can go anywhere with your boat. Be the courteous and ethical angler.

Offshore, try any wrecks on your chart that are less than 100 feet deep. The Angela is a good starting point. It is only about ten miles south of the Cut. Another productive winter wreck is the Empire Mica about 25 miles out to the southwest from the Cut. Big amberjacks and snappers like to hang on the Empire Mica. Heavy tackle is necessary due to all the sharp steel and AJ's ability to pull you down there. Sixty pound class gear is not too heavy.

Inshore try the mouths of any creeks that flow into the Apalachicola River. Reds like to lie in wait to ambush any bait that is washing out into the river. Let your offering wash out with the current for a more natural presentation. Eight pound class tackle is about right for slot sized redfish.

Flounder like to hang around bridge pilings. They feed on small crustaceans and can swim into the lea of the current behind the pilings to rest. Sheepshead will be feeding in these areas soon. Stay tuned to my reports regarding the sheepshead bite. Black drum will be in these same areas when the water turns colder. Live bull minnows are a good choice of baits for flounder and red/black drum. You can trap you own or buy them at reasonable prices at tackle stores. Try the bridge pilings at the SGI bridge and the bridge that goes from Apalach to East Point.

One species I overlooked is the fabulous eating black sea bass. You will find these tasty critters in the same places as groupers. Coral reefs are great spots to try. Good quality squid is the best sea bass bait. These little cousins of the grouper family may arguably be the best eating of all saltwater fish species. Name one that is superior. Maybe lane snapper or snook, but it is surely a competition.

As an integral part of your pretrip planning, take a hard look at several different weather models. If it is forecast to blow 15 knots or more, reschedule your trip to a better time. Remember the basic mission, catch fish and have fun. Eating saltwater and bouncing over five footers is not much fun! Be very careful in winter with cold water and wind. Always respect the winter elements. Be safe and fish another day.

Till next tide, tight lines and solid hookups,
Captain Alex Crawford
(850) 697-8946

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Captain Alex Crawford is a full time guide who has fished the Florida Panhandle offshore for 26 years. He specializes in grouper and snapper trips with light tackle on live bait. Custom trips for companies with multiple boats will be arranged. Inshore trips targeting specific species and custom eco trips are available for birding, gator watching, shelling, picnics and barrier islands. Contact Captain Alex for a fun and productive trip on Florida's Forgotten Coast.

Contact Info:

Topknots Charters
P. O. Box 1029
Carrabelle, FL 32322
Phone: 850-697-8946
Alt. Phone: same
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