Fishing report: Anglers enjoy offshore sampler

Mason Wilson and his Tiger Shark (that he released) taken on July 20 off Suwannee.
Mason Wilson and his tiger shark (that he released) taken on July 20 off Suwannee.
Courtesy of Gary Simpson

Among the subgroups of anglers, offshore fishers are unique. They invest megabucks into vessels and equipment capable of plowing through rough seas and hauling in the heavyweights that reside only in the greater depths.

It has long been commonly stated by the salty anglers who love chasing offshore fish that the arrival of Dog Days is a good time to suspend fishing activities for a while. It’s boiling hot, they’ve reasoned, summer thunderstorms are a pain and fuel is expensive. 

This reasoning has never been truer than it is this year, as one of their favorite targets, red grouper, will be illegal to harvest recreationally through the last five months of 2023.  On top of that, the number one target, gag grouper, will be closed until Sept. 1 and red snapper close for two months starting July 31. 

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A ‘fall season’ for gulf red snapper that will include all the weekends (Fridays through Sundays) in October and November will tempt offshore fans back to the salty depths.  But with grouper and red snapper off limits, there seems to be little reason to go in August.

Now, if they spoke with Bo Wilson like we did this week, some of these offshore enthusiasts might just have a change of heart.

Bo headed offshore from Suwannee last Thursday morning along with his son, Mason, and his buddy, Kyle Keane.  They were aboard Kyle’s 24-foot Sea Pro. The day was calm, and so the Windsor and High Springs trio’s range was only limited by the Sea Pro’s gas capacity.

And in spots from 60 to 100 feet deep, they collected a heck of a fishy haul.

Twice through the day, they happened upon pieces of flotsam. And underneath each of these bits of floating debris were swarms of small “chicken dolphins.”  Planning to catch bait with Sabiki Rigs, they had taken along light spinning outfits normally used for trout fishing.

These, rigged with jigheads and Gulps, were perfect for the colorful, acrobatic little battlers that took the Gulps like they were famished.

The fishermen hauled in mahi up to about four pounds, stopping when they had just over 40 fillet-able fish.

Through the day, there were plenty more options.

Bottom fishing with frozen mackerel and live bait they Sabiki’d on the way out, the three added 26 lane snapper, four sizeable mangrove snapper, and a couple of still-in-season red snapper. Along with all these snappers, they filled limits of good-sized red grouper (on the final day of the year to legally harvest them). 

A stout 40-inch cobia further bolstered the fish box and young Mason’s feisty catch-and-release 3-foot tiger shark added yet another thrill to a great fishing day.

Even without their red grouper and red snapper, Keane and Bo and Mason Wilson found plenty of great action and harvestable fish in the waters well off the Big Bend coast.

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