The Tampa Bay Times

Capt. Brent Gaskill

        With the recent opening of red snapper season this past weekend I had the opportunity to get on larger boats and make the run offshore.  With our current fuel prices there was no need to run past the 120’ mark to find enough fish for everyone onboard to enjoy a nice fresh meal.  We found success with our targeted red snapper, along with mangrove snapper, lane snapper, and red grouper.  We fished over what’s known as “cheese bottom” which are limestone outcroppings with scatted holes that provide both protection and ambush points.  These hard bottom areas are like an oasis for fish in a desert of surrounding sand.  The majority of the fish we caught were on knocker-rigs with weights from 1-2oz. and hooks from 3/0-5/0 with live-scaled sardines for bait.  The largest fish however were taken on white buck tail jigs with half of a frozen sardine.  Releasing undersize fish in deeper offshore waters becomes a more difficult task.  Most will need to be vented with a specialized hollow pick that allows expanded gasses to escape. Or better yet, use a descending device that returns the fish to depth where they have recompressed before release.  If you are considering hiring an offshore charter for red snapper fishing make sure they are operating legally with their Federal Charter Permits.  We witnessed the Coast Guard checking vessels 40 miles offshore. Buyer beware, it takes more than a captain’s license, insurance, and a fancy boat to operate for-hire in federal waters.

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