Making the most of an offshore fishing trip between cold fronts
With fall in full swing and cold fronts now rolling through Florida, it may be difficult to find windows of good weather to run offshore.
The potential for an El Nino pattern would mean a wetter and windier winter over the Gulf of Mexico, but the calm weather around the weather events will provide great fishing.
On Thursday, I was able to sneak a trip offshore between last Sunday’s and Friday’s cold fronts. With the forecast predicting an afternoon of calm weather, I joined Caleb Grimes aboard his 32-foot Contender ST with Steve Gamble, James Sharpin and Capt. Josh Bibler slightly after noon.
I was concerned the previous night’s full moon would make fishing a little slow, but with few opportunities to run offshore, we took the chance.
After acquiring 20dozen shrimp and two live wells full of pilchards, we pushed west at 50 mph with the help of the twin 300 Yamahas. It didn’t take long for us to reach the popular Fin Barge just to see what was home.
One of the amazing additions to the Contender is a Rhodan GPS trolling motor, which helped us stay put after deploying without the use of an anchor, and more importantly reposition up current of the wreck.
Any doubts of a slow bite were soon put to rest as Gamble was hooked up on a light jig head with a shrimp on the first drop. Unfortunately, the battle was quickly lost when his fish was donated to either a hungry Goliath grouper or barracuda.
All around the boat, fish seemed to be going crazy. There was surface life and bait as far as we could see and the schools of sardines over the wreck were constantly ambushed by predators.
We chummed heavily and soon a flat line in the rod holder was screaming that Grimes grabbed. Bibler hooked into something huge on a jighead with a shrimp on a light 4000 Shimano reel that would test his tackle.
About 10 minutes later, we could see the long silver shine from Grimes’ fish. It was a kingfish probably pushing more than 30 pounds.
It made a last run before a barracuda took off the back half of the fish. I stuck a gaf into the huge head as bled poured out of the dismembered kingfish. Even what was left was probably over 20 pounds.
Bibler kept working on his fish, making what little ground he could with the light tackle. Eventually it made its way to the surface, a huge amberjack around 40 pounds.
The hook on the jighead held up and it was hard to tell who was more tired, Bibler or the amberjack. With only a few days left in the amberjack season, we added it to the fish box.
Back to the jig fishing, we kept hooking into quality fish that would meet their demise at the mouth of larger predators below. Between the sharks, barracuda and Goliath grouper they were relentless.
Eventually we were able to sneak one beautiful yellowtail snapper past them, only furthering our desire to get more. Unfortunately, we donated more fish and tackle to the monsters under the boat than we were able to add to the fish box.
It was classic fall wreck fishing with an insane amount of life between the bait and predators.
In a few weeks, I expect kingfish, cobia and more pelagics to be covering most bait holding structures offshore.
The rest of the evening we bounced around to more rock piles and ledges, able to pick off some grouper, snapper and hogfish. At two of the ledges we donated more fish between a 10-foot bullshark and a couple of Goliath grouper who were hungrier than us.
Despite the full moon there were some really hungry and aggressive fish to be found. The problem for us was most of those aggressive fish were massive and felt like taking advantage of hooked fish.