GO FISHING is a look at the area fishing scene through the eyes of local charter boat captains and fishing guides. Today: Billy Nobles, left, with "Reel Animals" partner Mike Anderson.
Boy, what happened to the nice, warm weather? I was getting used to the great days on the water.
I had the pleasure of fishing some of Tampa Bay's NHL team, the Lightning, this week. We fished inshore around Fort De Soto. It was really tough to keep bait in the water, not because of the fish, but the birds were terrible. We had three boats running, and everyone had a story about the birds, but we managed to put together a stringer of trout. There were only a handful of reds caught, and one snook, along with a ladyfish, pelicans and terns.
Offshore, the bite is nothing less than spectacular, from just off the beach to as far as you want to go out. We have had several amberjack in the 80-pound class, all kinds of grouper, and bunches of yellowtail and mangrove snapper. It's sad, but with the grouper season closure, it seems that our minds are closed as well. We have collectively made grouper the "rock star" of the Gulf.
In reality, give me large mangrove snapper on light tackle, free-lined in 150 feet of water and it doesn't get any better, especially when we get back to the dock and it's time to eat. Snapper are much better table fare than grouper.
If it's a fight you want, huge amberjack on light tackle and a topwater is where it's at. You get to basically pick your fish and watch him take the bait. The big fish last week was 78 pounds, on a 30-pound-class spinning rod. The fight lasted about 40 minutes or so, with the last 20 minutes on a busted rod. Yep, the rod broke in half, so it was really a challenge to land this guy.
So get out in the blue water and take off the blinders. There are plenty of fish to take for the table that are much better to eat than grouper — yellowtail snapper, hogfish, mangrove snapper, lane snapper, and the list goes on.