Fishing Report for the Florida Panhandle
Capt. Alex Crawford
January 13, 2006
Carrabelle - Saltwater Fishing Report
CATCH BUCKET LOADS OF SPAWNING SEABASS NOW
Winter means spawning black sea bass offshore. These fish are so hungry right now, they will sometimes even eat your lead sinkers. Amazing, but true.
Guides that target winter sea bass know there are a few very important things necessary to consistently fill the box with these tasty fish. Location, location, location is first. Or more succinctly, “FISH WHERE THE FISH ARE.” I know you have heard me say this over and over, ad nauseam, but sea bass, like their grouper cousins, love structure. So, on the Forgotten Coast, bottom line—find a rocky hard bottom with live coral and you have accomplished the first step to successful sea bass catching. These natural reef numbers are readily available in the public domain.
Offshore, the second most important element to your sea bass fish plan is current. Sea bass always bite best on fast current. When the current slows, the bite abruptly ends. The key here is patience. Get up early and plan to spend the day offshore. Check the pressure systems and be flexible in your fishing plans to achieve the best results. Winter fishing requires extra attention to wind and sea conditions, as well as safety gear. The water is cold and you can drown in a teaspoon full of it if you don’t respect Mother Nature. Have extra warm clothes onboard and file a fish plan with a friend. Charge up your cell and check out your very high frequency radio before leaving the dock. Forgive digressions into safety issues, can’t help myself.
When in a spawning mode, black sea bass are one of the most beautiful fish that we catch in the Gulf. The males in particular exhibit their most handsome colors to attract females. Their dorsal fins turn a gorgeous iridescent blue on the tines and they develop a large fatty hump just in front of the dorsal fin. Spawning continues through March.
The next important technique is proper bait selection. Sea bass are omnivorous feeders. They are fond of reef inhabitants like shellfish and small fish. The very best bait for the recreational angler is high quality squid. Small white, calamari-grade squids are much better than large red/brown Gulf squid. You will pay a little more for a five pound box, but it is worth the investment. In my small part of the big pond, try Half Hitch Tackle or Fisherman’s Choice Bait and Tackle.
For the sporting angler, try a couple white rubber jigs rigged on a short piece of fluorocarbon leader with a sufficient weight sinker tied on the bottom on the rig. When sea bass are eating, almost any fresh bait works, including small chunks of cut bait.
It is hard to resist sending a grouper bait down on a big stick. Groupers will eat your small squid offerings, but mostly shorts.
Heavy tackle is not necessary to handle sea bass, they will go about a pound on average. Twenty pound class equipment is sufficient. The caveat here is always when a copper belly gag comes to play.
Fried fillets, scratch hush puppies and ice-cold beer is the end reward to your winter sea bass trip. Have fun, dress warmly and enjoy the camaraderie of good fishing friends.
Till next tide, solid hookups and tight lines,
Captain Alex Crawford
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