Fishing Report for the Florida Panhandle
Capt. Alex Crawford
November 30, 2004
Carrabelle - Saltwater Fishing Report
Out on the deep blue it is prime time for groupers and their yummy little cousin, the black sea bass. In fact, one does not have to run way south to catch both of these tasty species. Two days ago we were anchored on the west jetty of the Government Cut and the sea bass we eating live shrimp on every cast on rising water. Granted, there were many throw-backs, but we had enough keepers for a large dinner party. And another first for this Captain/writer, we landed a legal size gag grouper in the Cut. We added a couple mangrove snappers to the bag and, to our collective amazement, our inshore trip miraculously became a successful offshore trip. Our original target was bull reds, but we caught only two slot reds on shrimp. We watched two other boats nearby catch and release one each, out of the slot reds. The bulls are here right now, catch ‘em up.
On another soiree offshore last week in between pressure systems, we ventured 21 miles southeast of the Cut in pursuit of group-groups. A party of 4 fun-loving gentlemen from Bumingham, Ala-dam-bama joined me for some serious grouper crankin’ in the Gulf. We set up inside of the S tower on a big live-bottom reef looking for all manner of finny creatures. Our depth was 96 feet and our go-to baits were live grunts and pinfish. The pinfish are just about all gone offshore now with inshore surface temps in the mid-sixties.
Our catch was a little different on this trip. We had a box full of nice red groupers to 8 pounds, no keeper gags, short red snappers (out of season anyway), several chunky lane snappers and a thrilling battle with a 30-plus king that made three drag-screaming laps around the boat before coming up on the surface just out of gaff range and biting through the fluorocarbon leader. Kings will adrenalize your life! I know there is no such word, but you get the idea. King mackerel are heading south now to winter in south FL and the Keys. Offshore water is still in the mid-seventies, so bait is still here and so are kings, but not for long.
In the bay, trout are tearing it up. One professional trout guide friend reports catches of 100 plus fish per day. This past Saturday we fished the Saint George Island old bridge and produced a mixed catch of reds, trout, whiting, black drum and early-season sheepshead. Live shrimp are available, as are some fiddler crabs on occasion. As we move into winter, the sheepshead bite will improve with spawning fish into February. The new SGI bridge gave up a few fish around the high ICW span, but the old bridge produced better results. As the new bridge becomes more “seasoned” with new growth, particularly barnacles, the sheepshead will take up winter residence. Don’t overlook the bridge connecting East Point to Apalach for flounder, reds and sheepshead this winter. The trick is to get in close to the pilings to fish vertical for sheepshead. When you arrive, get a reading on how your vessel will hold in wind and current. You may want to attach a short piece of nylon to a piling, so you can tie up tight without tearing your rub rail off in seas. Remember to always take your line with you when you leave.
One of the most reliable target-species of winter is the black drum. The slot fish (14 to 24 inches) are great eats cooked with skin-on on the barby. The flavorful flesh is comparable in taste to the other drum, red ones. Although you can keep one black drum bigger than the slot, the larger specimens are not at the top of the eat list, being somewhat mushy like bull reds and prone to worms. Black drum grow quite large. Many moons ago, we caught them in the surf off of the barrier islands of Virginia. It was common to catch 50 plus pounders using ocean clams for bait and giant surf rods. Yesterday, a friend emailed me a photo of his son holding a 54 pounder caught on a mud bar in the Apalachicola Bay. It was a 25 minute tussle on light tackle. Or, at least that is the fish story.
Till next tide, tight lines and Happy Thanksgiving,
Captain Alex Crawford
Proud Member Florida Outdoor Writers Association
Proud Member Florida Guides Association
Proud Member Coastal Conservation Association
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