We just got back from a fishing trip to the wonderful Florida panhandle. We try to go on a trip down there for some saltwater action every year. May has always worked out well for us as King fishing hasn't yet taken off on the big pond and summer is just starting in Wisconsin. This year the weather down in Florida was great if you like wind...we fought windy and dirty water conditions all week, but still manged to catch some nice fish! I've never seen the surf so dirty, I'm guessing the torrential rains in the weeks leading up to our trip had a thing or two to so with it.
After our short 19 hour drive we arrived at our house for the week and got to bowhunting stingrays (great shark bait) and fishing the surf looking for Pompano and Whiting. Right off the bat the wind made itself known and hunting stingrays became a real chore in the sold chop. Good thing the guys on the beach managed to catch one. After a quick dinner we ran out a couple shark baits and were quickly rewarded with a solid 75" bull shark.
We called it a night shortly after...two days without sleep will have that effect on you! The next morning we made a push to get some rays for bait, after some trial and error we found a nice little protected cove and managed to hunt down 7 of them for bait..what a riot. Some really nice size ones....
and some that were more like potato chips.
After the stingray hunt we caught ourselves a pile of Spanish Mackerel that would be our dinner while we hit the beach and waited on the sharks. This would turn out to be our nicest day surfwise and we captalized landing 4 sharks that evening. One 78" Bull, 2 Finetooth Sharks and an Atlantic Sharpnose.
We tag and release all our sharks through the NOAA Cooperative Shark Tagging program.
Shortly there after my cousin and his Dad caught there first sharks...two nice Finetooth's and the Sharpnose.
Spanish Macs on the sand grill pit.
We called it a night as the next day we were going to be headed out deep into the gulf in search of big Amberjack, Grouper and Snapper. For the second year in a row we chartered a boat with Captain Ryan Kelly of Southbound Charters. You couldn't meet a nicer guy or find someone who knows more about fishing in the area....if you want to catch good eating fish until your arms are sore this is the guy to call. So at 7am we left the docks in Mexico Beach for a 10hr fishing trip into the gulf. As was the theme of the week the wind picked up shortly after we left the dock and we were forced to fight 5-7ft waves all day. No matter the fish didn't seem to mind. First stop...catch some hardtails for bait.
After a short 40+ mile cruise we dropped speed jigs on various ledges, wrecks and sea mounts and let's just say the fish were home! Our first stop we had AJ's swarming around the boat, it was sight to behold. You'd have one on and 10 others would be following it around trying to rip the jig out of the hooked fishes mouth. Insane!
Gag Grouper made there presence know as well, too bad they were out of season.
We messed around with the AJ's until we had each caught our fill. As a freshwater guy the fight of AJ's in just astounding pound for pound it's unbelievable how hard these guys pull and they NEVER give up. Next spot we filled the coolers with big Red Porgy's, then worked our way shallower catching various fish along the way. Last stop Ryan told us there would be jumbo "Oceanliner" size Vermillion Snapper mixed it with huge Red Snapper and Triggerfish. The Triggers and Red Snapper all had to go back but what a blast catching these truly trophy size snappers.
After a bit the dolphins and sharks crashed the party so we headed in tired, and sore with a boat-full of great eating fish.
The next day we resumed our shark hunt, the weather and surf conditions were horrible, but another 77" bull shark and 66" blacktip shark cooperated, eating yesterdays AJ heads as bait.
That was it for the day as the wind picked up to the point where we could no longer run baits, so we settled in for a nice relaxing night. Our second to last day was more of the same, high wind really prevented us from fishing where and how we wanted to. We made the best of a bad deal and hit a sheltered location that is absolutely full of great eating Gafftopsail Catfish, these guys fight hard are willing and tasty...what's not to like.
Just as we were packing up to get lunch my brother's rod doubled over with a big fish, 20 minutes later we were still fighting this unknown beast as he only had 10# test. After some crafty maneuvering and excellent fish fighting we landed a massive pre-historic looking black drum. This had to be the surprise of the trip and made our day!
That night we tried a new location that was sheltered from the wind for sharks for a bit, but no one was home.
The next and final day we caught a smattering of different fish everything from Pompano, Spanish Macs to Flounder, Ladyfish, and Sharks. The wind was still bad and limited us to running two baits on our last night. Bound and determined we managed to make it out past the surfline in our kayak for one last shot. Just as the sun was setting on our last night we got another bite!
and capped the trip off with a 78" bull shark.
As usual this trip was a total blast, weather could have been better, but isn't that always the case? We made due with the conditions, had a great trip and I can't wait for next year!