Monday, January 05, 2009

1/5/09 - RED SNAPPER for our SON!!!!
by Robin

The alarm clock went off at 5:30 and it wasn't too hard to get up. Everything & everybody was loaded, fed, hitched and on the road by 7am. Thank goodness, we had already gassed up the boat and only needed to buy 5 lbs of squid and 5 lbs of cigar minnows before dunking it in the water at 7:25 because we managed to just beat the line-up of boats that arrived at 7:30 am.

It looked like the Kentucky Derby of offshore boats on the way out of the inlet as the sun started to rise and burn off the night's lingering fog. As soon as the fleet hit the jetty rocks, we begin full power and push beyond the inlet's mouth. Some turned left, heading north to 9A looking for kingfish or bait. Some right, I'm sure to head to Patrick AFB beaches in search of sailfish. But the majority of us were heading due east or SE in search of 21F & 27F ledges or wrecks. Red Snapper dreams have filled the minds of fishermen the entire month, as we all waited for seas & gas prices to go down. Yep, it certainly was a derby and we came no where close to winning the roses.

As it turned out, even though the seas were not all that high, the period between the waves was such that we had to cut our speed in half to avoid losing fillings in our teeth. LOL. It took a little while and as we passed by Pelican Flats, 20 mi from shore, there must have been nearly a dozen boats already making their passes or anchored up. Pelican Flats is a long area of good natural bottom that attracts many fish all year long. It tends to be broken up into North, Central and South regions. We went past the entire Flats onto our new GPS# where we picked up the 3 snapper last month.

We made a couple drifting passes and picked up the usual culprits like short snapper, black sea bass and grunts. I kept a couple grunts because my objective this trip was to try various new methods in order to pick up larger fish. I wanted to work with livies and jigs. I sent one of those grunts down while Jack and our son continued to use cigar minnows. Next thing I know, I'm getting no bites and our son is sitting on the end of the rod and using the gunnel for leverage while his pole tip is nearly hitting the water. He had a keeper something and the rest of us were very excited for him.

I brought up my livie (live grunt) about the same time he got his catch up to the side of the boat. Jack, at this time, helps him lift the fish over the side. I look over for my grunt and see 2 cobia following it up. They are very curious animals, so I left my grunt, half-dead, in the water. At this point, I feel somewhat regretful at this point. Our son's fish was definitely legal but with the opportunity of cobia coming to us, we had no time to rejoice in that for long or help him throw it in the cooler. All three of us stood looking over my side of the boat at the two cobia who were literally staring at the grunt. Not swimming, staring totally still as if to decide was it worth it or not. They were definitely hesitant. One was definitely legal size!

Ok, so they weren't excited about a half-dead grunt, so I put that bottom pole in a pole holder, but left the fish & the new circle hook in the water. Jack grabs the spinner with a chartreusse jig on it. I grabbed another spinner with a glass minnow-looking jig on it. The cobia both followed the minnow a few times but poor Jack had some terrible issues with the bail-release on his spinner. (That will have to be remedied before cobia migration season starts!) I tried everything from slowing it down to speeding it up to build excitement. I couldn't buy a bite. When I brought the jig in, I realized it still had the protective plastic sleeve over the hook and even if the fish had taken a bite. D'oh. What a rookie mistake! I threw the rod & reel combo back, helped take the hook out of the snapper while Jack contemplated free-gaffing the cobia. What's free-gaffing? That's when the fish is so curious that he swims right to you and you are able to sink the gaff into his side without him even having a hook in his mouth. Sure enough, the larger one of the two cobia decided to swim alongside the boat, in eeeeasy gaffing range. I'm not sure what noise I made on the far side of the boat or if he was keen to Jack's swift movement but the fish turned quickly as the gaff was being pulled up and it glanced off the side of the fish. It was a gutsy move and oh well, it didn't pan out. Next, I grabbed the kids' light spinner with a 3/0 J- hook on it. I was desperate. I grabbed another pinfish from the livewell and sent it down about 6 ft. The water was dirty green so we kept losing sight when it went further. Then, the most amazing thing happened, 3 of the 4 of us were able to witness him attack the live fish. Wow! The first time this happened, I pulled it out of his mouth too fast. The 2nd time, I let him take it downward for a few feet then tried to set the hook. Again, the cobia opened his mouth and released the fish. The third time, I simply left the fish in the water, put the pole in a pole holder and put almost not drag on the reel.

At this point, we all refocused on our son's legal snapper and did the ceremonial high-5's and picture taking. It was truly something to rejoice over since he had prayed for at least one legal fish and he got it. He didn't even need help pulling the 7 lber, 23.5" fish up 90 feet of water.


About the time I took this photo, I became totally distracted as I heard the spinner begin to sing to me. Round and round it went as the cobia was probably taking off with the pinfish again. I no sooner put the camera down and the reel was silenced. No extra cobia in the box. We never even saw them again. We set up for the next drift or two and our fish finder machine died on us. Jack was a true professional about that. He knew approximately where our starting and finishing drifts were so he kept on another 45 min with trying to put us over that good bottom to catch another keeper snapper. As God would have it, we could only raise small black sea bass.

At 11:50, we cut our losses and opted for trolling the beautiful, flat ocean while eating our lunches. Stay tuned for more stories about our afternoon.


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