Fishing Report for the Florida Panhandle
Capt. Alex Crawford
January 9, 2004
Carrabelle - Saltwater Fishing Report
APALACHICOLA OFFSHORE BONANZA
In the 24 years that this Captain/writer has been chasing offshore fish in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, the fishing has never been better. Those are some strong words, so maybe a caveat is in order. For the really good eating bottom species that are highly prized, the fishing is fabulous. The most prolific targets of Winter include grouper, seabass, triggerfish and snapper. Red snapper is closed until Spring, but there are plenty of mangroves, lanes and vermilions to catch. With the right conditions and techniques, the dedicated bottom bumper can get bit on virtually every drop. Compared to inshore piscatorial endeavors, tackling big fish offshore is faster than greased lightning.
Obsessed offshore anglers always try to stack the odds in their favor. Chum is the trick! Today, there are several innovative chum products on the market that have proven successful. One that is employed by guides across the Gulf coast from Texas to Florida is called the Chum Churn. This is a simple, but effective device. It is built out of 4 inch pvc plastic with wide slots carved into the housing. A set of razor-sharp stainless blades are set at an angle in the plastic tube. Whole fish up to 24 inches and cut baits are loaded into the top of the tool and hung overboard on the gunwale or inserted into a rod holder by means of a curved handle. With an aggressive pumping action, the device cuts and dispenses chum into the water in large quantities. As a bonus, the churning noise sounds like a school of baitfish being attacked by predators. Fish are attracted by playing on three natural senses, sight, smell and sound. One incremental advantage of the Chum Churn is that anglers can sight-cast to larger fish up in the water column, thereby reducing mortality of short fish. There is nothing better than presenting a lure or bait to a big fish and watching the take in clear water, especially on top. If this thrill fails to get your blood running, take up a new sport, like watching grass grow.
Another creative chumming product is the Chum King. The success of this device is that it allows the angler to introduce different types of chum at a chosen depth. A weighted basket is filled with the chum or chunk baits and deployed on a hand line to the bottom or midway in the water column depending upon the target species. The chum is introduced and the device is pulled out of the water. The basic premise here is that fish behave differently to man-made objects in their domain.
The evolution of how fish react to chum has gone high tech. Underwater cameras record the behavior of different species to different flavors of chum products like shrimp, pogies, squid etc. Just call it Fish Behavioral Psychology 101. Already on the market are impregnated/scented lures that catch more fish. In the future we will walk into the tackle store and tell the salesman what species of fish we want to catch. A complete assortment of different “flavors” will be available that have been documented to catch each targeted species from grouper to wahoo.
A dual-purpose chum device is called the Chum Basket. Manufactured by American Bandit Company out of Bainbridge, GA, this creative tool serves two basic functions. The business end is a lead-weighted basket that is filled with your favorite chum. The line is attached to a high-quality marker buoy that marks the fish show seen on your bottom machine. Catching more fish is only limited by one’s preparation and ingenuity.
The sure cure for the blahs of Winter is to get out there in the wild blue and go after some of those Saddam groupers. They will be the ones that you pull up and out of their hole.
Till next tide, tight lines and solid hookups,
Captain Alex Crawford
Proud Member Florida Outdoor Writers Association
Proud Member Florida Guides Association
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