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Fishing Report for the Florida Panhandle

Capt. Alex Crawford
November 20, 2006
Carrabelle - Saltwater Fishing Report

GROUPERS ARE SHALLOW NOW

Gag groupers have moved in closer to shore now that the water temperature is much cooler, around 73 degrees on the surface offshore of Apalachicola. You will have to fish hard for keeper gags. Expect to get lots of bites with short fish.

The other good news to report is that black sea bass have moved onto live bottom reefs and will eat your fresh squid baits. The go-to baits for grouper are live grunts (pigfish), squirrel fish (sand perch), small beeliners and pinfish if you can find them. The old standby frozen grouper baits that work best are pogies and good squid. Pogies that have been frozen for a long time could show signs of being freezer-burned and are less desirable offerings.

Other incidental(non target) offshore species that live around good grouper numbers include mangrove snappers, gray trigger fish, flounder, winter bluefish and amberjacks. One species you may encounter in huge schools are giant redfish. On a couple of my rocky numbers in winterís past I have been anchored fishing groupers and gray snappers and all of a sudden the water turns coppery red and a school of reds move into the chum. If your line moves away from the boat in a steady/heavy pull, donít be surprised to see a bull red on your hook. The purpose of these redfish encounters offshore is to keep you at the ready when that huge copper belly black grouper inhales your squid.

When you continue to lose your bait without hooking up, look on your bottom machine, it may be a swarm of trigger fish suspended under your boat. These tasty critters are superior bait stealers and a more specialized approach is needed to catch them. Pre-rig a couple twelve to fifteen pound class outfits with lighter lead sinkers and small, stout 1/0 live bait hooks (super sharp). Cut your fresh squid into very small, bite size strips and impale a couple on your small hook. Thread the baits onto the hook multiple times to make it more difficult for the triggers to steal. Drop your bait to the bottom and immediately set the hook hard, two or three times. The triggers follow the bait down and eat it quickly once it hits bottom. Check you bait often, as triggers have an amazing ability to steal your bait even as it drops to bottom. Catching chunky triggers on light to medium size tackle is loads of fun. And the fillets rival all other species on the dinner table. Also, red snapper season is closed until spring, so red snappers are a fun catch and release winter fishery.

It has been hard to keep up with the regulation changes, but, as we speak, the daily bag limit (aggregate) is five (5) groupers per angler per day. On charter trips, the Captainís catch canít be included.

Your favorite live bottom or artificial reef in less than 70 feet of water is good to add to your fish plan. A few productive spots will include the Apalachicola reef, Apalachicola bridge rubble, the Saint George Island bridge rubble, the C tower, the Gilmore wreck and hard bottom around K tower. These spots are all south and south east of the Government Cut, so you can develop a fish plan more easily.

With stiff northerly winds in winter, go out early and return early before the seas get too big. Dress in layers, be careful and have fun.

Till next tide, tight lines and solid hookups,

Captain Alex Crawford

www.topknots.com Proud member Coastal Conservation Association

Proud member Florida Outdoor Writers Association

Proud member Florida Guides Association

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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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