Fishing Report January 17, 2018

Careful timing can put you on the trail of fish


Fishing around the barrage of cold fronts we are experiencing can be quite good — if pick the right days.

You can pick your fish. You can pick your days. And the days have to be the calm ones in between fronts.

A lot of action is occurring offshore and even nearshore, but it’s got to be calm in order to have a good experience out there. Big amberjack are being caught around the wrecks offshore, while hogfish, grunts and snappers are being taken around the ledges and artificial reefs.

Don’t forget about tripletail. As elusive and confusing as these fish can be to figure out, they can be simple to catch when you find them.

Speaking of tripletail, on my recent Southernaire charter, I found myself in a dream. First, there were patches of thick fog fading in and out as I patrolled one of the trap lines, which gave everything a mysterious and eerie feeling. But let me tell you, the tripletail were in abundance — which seemed to distract me from reality that I was somewhere out in the Gulf of Mexico surrounded by fog and having to rely solely on GPS to get a clue where I was. It was like that for almost every buoy. I couldn’t believe it. So, there I was, up in the tower cruising the trap line and literally stopping at almost every buoy.

Mark Willis, his son Scott and their friend Chip Legassey of Harbour Isle in Bradenton were busy baiting up as we slowly approached the fish. Scott cast to the first fish, a 12-pounder, which immediately hit the bait. Scott tightened up and set the hook and the fish made a straight shot toward the boat. It spit the hook and slowly swam back to its buoy.

“Cast another bait in there!” I hollered down from up in the tower. Scott did just that and the fish hit again. We were all cheering in amazement as Scott fought the fish to the boat. I climbed down the tower and scooped the fish into the landing net.

Next, it was Chip’s turn. Same deal. We approached the buoy. Chip placed the bait perfectly in front of the fish and it ate the shrimp without hesitation. Chip quickly set the hook and cranked the tripletail boatside. This one fell just short of the 15-inch minimum so we gently put it back and it swam away.

The third fish, another big one — coming in at 10 pounds — was reeled up by Mark. This fish was slightly stubborn. It took a few shots before it would take the bait. In fact, Mark cast so close to the buoy the line got hung up. The shrimp was flush against the trap line.

“I’m hung up,” Mark said.

“Let it sit. See if he’ll eat it off the line for you,” I replied. And sure enough, that’s what happened.

Drag peeled off Mark’s reel as the “crappie on steroids” turned sideways trying to get away. Persistently, Mark fought the fish until it was finally boat side, photographed, and in the cooler.

After a day like that, everyone was stoked. Instead of seeing double though, I guess you could say we were seeing triple.