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"Which Fishing Style is Best for Each Species of Fish?"

Bottom Fishing

This is the method of fishing where we will travel to a set destination that is known to have the type of structure on the seafloor that fish like to congregate around and fish it directly. Several methods can occur to fish such as jigging, dead baiting, chumming, and the most popular and effective method of live baiting. This fishing style most commonly produces these hard fighting, great table fare species.

Snapper: The Northern Gulf of Mexico has many different types of snappers in its water, but Red Snapper is king! These fish are tough fighters who are world renowned for their qualities at the dinner table. But don’t sleep on the others, as we also catch vermillion, lane, mangrove, and white snapper too!  While typically smaller they still provide a good fight and are just as tasty! Red Snapper Season is during the summer months (June-August), but the other varieties can be caught and kept year-round.

Grouper: We have three different species of grouper to catch here (Gag, Red, and Scamp).  These fish require heavy tackle as they are well known for their line busting ability. A white and flaky meat fish, this fish’s filet is usually the premier option at any of our local seafood restaurants. Peak grouper season is from spring all the way to the early winter (April-Nov), but Gag grouper season is only open during the fall (Sep-Nov). The other 2 species can be targeted all year long.

Amberjack: This fish is the pound for pound hardest fighting fish in any water. They use brute force the entirety of the fight, with most fishermen not wanting to touch the rod again for a while once a battle with an AJ is complete! While their meat is firmer and less flaky, they are excellent to blacken or smoke, they are an underappreciated catch to most anglers who are unaware of the quality of food they provide.

Triggerfish: This species averages a bit smaller than the previous members on the menu, but they are voracious feeders and fighters when hooked. They will at times come directly to the boat and eat bait in eyesight. Don’t let their modest looks trick you, most of the locals consider this the best table fare on the reef! Excellent white meat to fry, blacken, or grill. It is a favorite fish taco meat to those who live on these waters.

Cobia: While this species is seldom seen on the reefs, they are always a possibility in the Spring and summer months as they migrate up from the Florida Keys. An interesting looking fish, they are powerhouses that rival an amberjack in pulling ability. Known for long runs and prolonged fights you are sure to be tired after battling a Cobia. Considered excellent table fare as well, they stand up well to most any cooking method desired.


Nearshore Trolling

This method of fishing is a much more technical version of fishing than bottom fishing, requiring species knowledge and tactics to draw the fish to the boat. Instead of going directly to a spot where fish congregate, we go to known areas with preferred conditions for the target species. The type of fish targeted while trolling is pelagic, meaning they migrate long distances and never stop swimming in the hunt for food, which is why we cannot go to a particular location like we do when bottom fishing our non-migratory species. The fish targeted are known for heart stopping hits on the line and exciting fights near the surface once hooked. Several trolling styles are utilized depending on the conditions provided. Fishing with live bait, dead bait, and artificial lures can all be used in any combination that the captain and crew feel will provide the most success. As these fish are highly migratory, they are not in our waters year-round. Peak Trolling season will occur from late spring when the water warms, until the cold fronts of fall bring the water temps back to below 70 degrees (April-Nov) Our commonly encountered nearshore trolling specimens include:

King Mackerel: A fast running fish, they are a delicate species. While a lot of fun on light tackle, they are not known for strength. This species is built on speed, attacking baits quickly and peeling line off a reel on an initial run once hooked. They require a soft touch on the rod to successfully land one, as they are world renowned for their ability to spit a hook out just feet from the boat! This fish has a rich and oily flesh, best grilled fresh or smoked. Ask Captain Justin for his smoked king mackerel dip recipe, as most people who have tried it decide they really want to catch more king mackerel the next trip!

Mahi Mahi: One of the most popular fish in the gulf, these beautiful fish are equally delicious! Known as Dolphin in the Northern Gulf, their vibrant colors and ability to change them like a chameleon mesmerize even those who have caught many before. The sight of this fish never gets old! They are considered excellent table fare and can be cooked with any method desired to great results. A voracious eater and schooling fish, when mahi are found multiple hookups are normal. While not the toughest fighters, their propensity to jump out of the water and the excitement of 3 or 4 fish hooked at once is enough to have you coming back time and time again.

Wahoo: A less often encountered nearshore species, but when water conditions are right, they are known to move up shallower than their normal haunts. This is the favorite species of Capt. Justin. An absolute speed demon, they are one of the fastest fish in all the world. They attack their prey with an intensity that is hard to match, and they have the strength to peel hundreds of yards of line of a reel in the blink of an eye. Their silver body with blue and purple zebra stripes and a mouthful of razorblade sharp teeth is a spectacle. Also, this is considered by those who have had it as the absolute finest eating fish in the world. Can be cooked any number of ways, but the best way is not at all. This flesh it the most top grade sushi that you can get!

Blackfin Tuna: Also a fish more encountered further from shore, but when the fall comes and the bait moves close to shore this species can be found (Oct and Nov). The smallest of the tuna family, these football shaped fish pack quite a punch for their size. They are much lesser known than their larger cousins, but they make great sushi and seared tuna steaks when they are caught!


Offshore (Blue Water) Trolling

This is the type of fishing dreams are made of. For any angler who has thought of saltwater fishing, this is considered the ultimate destination! Also known as sport fishing, the tactics are very similar to the nearshore trolling just supersized. When you venture to the deep blue water, big reels with heavy line are on the deck, as we are chasing sea monsters! When blue water trolling, prolonged fights and precise maneuvering can be expected upon a successful hookup. Often times boat chases are required to keep the fish from taking all the line the reel has on it. All the species from the nearshore list are still a possibility, and the mahi mahi, wahoo, and tuna are more commonplace out in these depths as well. The other species that will be targeted are:

Yellowfin Tuna: This fish needs no introduction, the most well known of the tuna family and considered the premier sushi of most who have tried it.  This brute will average 20-60 lbs, but they grow to 300 lb and aren’t uncommon in the triple digits! All muscle, a hours long and backbreaking fight is to be expected once hooked up. But the effort is well worth the reward as this fish provides steaks to grill and belly meat to eat raw if sushi is your thing!

Billfish: The Northern Gulf of Mexico is one of the ultimate hotspots for targeting billfish in the United States. We have Sailfish, White Marlin, and the ever-famous Blue Marlin around all summer, with peak season being July-September. An apex predator, they range vast amounts of water hunting food. When targeting them, long waits are often required to bring one into the trolling spread. The wait is worth seeing a billfish crash into baits on the surface and listen to the drag scream on a reel as he runs away like a train hooked to the boat! Once hooked, aerial displays and a tiresome battle are up. These fish jump and run like no other, the ultimate image any angler has of sportfishing. This is the fish of a lifetime for most! Not generally considered a fish to keep, as a deep respect throughout the fishing community for these fish exists. They are allowed to be kept though if they are the right size; and are known to battle an angler to the death. Most harvested billfish are taken when this occurs. This is a fish most people smoke and eat or make a dip out of, if it is harvested upon the catch.

Now that you have a better understanding of the species of fish that are available to catch and the type of fishing that you will need to do to catch it; which fish will you be chasing after?

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