We've had a lot of rough days so far this year, but with openings on a few key species starting January 1st, we have all been taking advantage of any decent weather windows and so far have had great fishing in the new year.
As of January 1st, Greater Amberjack and Gray Triggerfish are open to harvest. This leaves only Red Snapper and Gag Grouper closed in federal waters. The Amberjack bite has been very good on just about any major structure from 6 miles offshore to 80 miles. We have been catching them on a huge variety of baits and lures. Live bait is usually the key to catching bigger AJs and spending some time catching good bait at the start of a trip will pay off. We usually try to catch Ruby Lips and other smaller reef fish on bottom spots within 10 miles before heading out. If you reeaally want to get big Amberjack, try catching a Bonito and using it for live bait. You rarely get an Amberjack under 50lbs doing this. I managed to hook a 80+lb AJ on Monday this week while using a 6lb Bonito. The Amberjack got free after the 9/0 circle hook broke! Needless to say, bring heavy gear if you plan on targeting large jacks.
For Triggerfish, I recommend downsizing your gear and fishing two to three hook rigs on 40-50lb leader and using smaller, #4-#1 circle hooks. The Owner Mutu circle is my favorite hook for Triggers. Use small chunks of squid, bonito chunks or even fresh cut shrimp. Fish different zones of the water column and watch your depthfinder. Triggers will usually show as smaller, less distinct marks on the screen.
Out further, all species of Grouper (minus Gag) are open until February 1st at which time all shallow water species of Grouper (Scamp, Gag, Red, Black, Yellowfin) will be prohibited from harvest beyond 20 fathoms until April 1st.
Bluewater reports have been few and far between due to weather, but we had some decent we had a few days of good weather this past week and a few boats got out for Tuna and other pelagics. From those reports, the Tuna seem to be in great numbers to the SW at rigs from 90 miles and further. Wahoo are very thick at rigs just inside and beyond the shelf in depths of 300-800ft.
Inshore fishing has been ok but cold water temperatures have limited variety. Sheepshead have been the main catch with Redfish and Black Drum a regular bycatch. Fiddler crabs and ghost shrimp are the best baits.
A few things to watch as we get near February and the start of spring:
- Pompano action will heat up once water consistently stay above 65 degrees (58-60 currently).
- Sheepshead are in thick now but will really pick up by mid February as they prepare to spawn.
Another thing I'd to add involves keeping up with regulations. Its not as easy for everyone to keep up with the federal seasons and changing bag and size limits. If you have a smart phone of pretty much any type, that can be solved. Go to your "App store" and search for the Gulf Fisheries Council App or "GFCRegs" app. This app will inform you of regulation changes, notifies you when to update and has a great species ID list. The app only gives regulations in federal waters, but it also provides links to other apps that show Gulf state regulations.
Next weeks forecast shows a couple decent weather days so hopefully it holds.
Sam's Bait and Tackle
27122 Canal Rd
Orange Beach, Al 36561