At Least The Fishing is Hot in SoWal

January 18, 2011 by Larry Pentel

What a cold windy start to the New Year. Snow in every State but Florida and plenty of nights below freezing here.

Add the inconsistent Federal (anti) fishing laws and it's a wonder that we can still go out and have this much fun!

The past weekend was cool but beautiful here in South Walton.

Lot's of Sunshine, light winds and calm seas. At 58 degrees you can't call it a warm day but hey- there were a lot of folks here calling it downright wonderful after running from a snowed-in Deep South!

I was lucky enough to have a group that had booked me for both days a few weeks ago. I guess thay have a crystal weather ball or something to know when to come. We started out Saturday by catching a bunch of "what-nots" to fill up the livewell and then out to deep (for me) water to look for some Red Groupers and possibly triggers.

We found plenty of Red colored fish but no keepers in the grouper family. I am expecting to throwback lots of those (supposedly) extinct Red Snappers but was not ready to release the biggest one I have seen in years. One of my anglers landed a fish I estimated at 33#. A big enough Snapper that she even had a remora close to foot long attached!

A fish of a lifetime !

We released a few more right nice Snappers and several (also extinct) gag Groupers to about 25 pounds and decided to run out a little further and look for some Amberjacks.

All these Snappers keep getting in the way of Fishing!

We didn't have to look hard for the Jacks or go to any great lengths to get 'em to bite. The first wreck I hit was covered up with hungry fish . My 4 anglers probably landed 16 -18 of the stubborn critters and broke/pulled off quite a few more as well. We kept our 4 fish limit, releasing the rest including one that was over 4 feet long as we had allready boxed the limit. A slick calm ride home at 24 knots was an extra treat to a great day.

Tired but Happy Anglers!

Sunday we started out with a "Big AJ" plan but after catching baits I ran off in a different direction to try some other areas. The first wreck I hit had some jacks on it. We caught a couple shorts, one keeper and then broke off a few big ones to shut the AJ's down.

As soon as the Jacks quit the Gag's started to bite and after releasing 3 of what should have been glory fish we decided to move on and try elsewhere. A quick run to another spot and -sure enough- the Jacks are here too. Not as quick to bite but much bigger than the fish prior. My folks tried hard but even with 80 pound line on 6/0 hooks they couldn't keep 'em out of the wreck.

Okay- on to the next big spot and.....repeat. Lots of big bites but we keep getting out gunned. The bite is still hot but we are out of live bait. I ran a mile to a small reef and we filled the tank back up to try again. More big bites, broken leaders but we start getting some fish up off the bottom and all the way to the boat, The first couple were big Gags, then a Jack, another Gag and finally another Jack before using the last live bait on yet another Gag.

On the ride back in the one male member of my group told me he figured I had tied at least 20 hooks onto his rod. I told that was fine- there were big fish in the box and all those fish we left out there I just call "job security"

The Jacks should stay hot for the next couple months if the weather will let you get offshore. If it's blowy the Sheepsheads should start piling up around the bridges soon to give some great fishing in a protected area and the bull Red Fish should be schooling up along the beach as well. Until the Feds make it illegal to own a Rod n Reel there are plenty of critters to go chase. Go get in on the action.

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Larry Pentel

Captain Larry Pentel is a native of South Walton, growing up just 300 yards from the beach. Having fished the local waters for over 40 years, he is very familiar with all the different types of local fish, their habits, and most importantly - their habitats. Captain Larry is the owner of Dead Fish Charters

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