Offshore Bottom November 2015 Fishing Report

_Barefoot_gag w jig close up

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he three months I love the most for bottom fishing are finally here. Those three months, being November, December and January are the best!!! Thanks to the “all knowing” fish gods (known to us common subjects as NOAA), January is off limits, but we still have two of those months. Gag grouper fishing is building to a crescendo now, with the week of Christmas being the peak of the year for gag fishing. Gags are not dumb by any stretch, but in order to consistently catch the (larger, wiser) males, you must take advantage of their weaknesses. The younger (undersized) females are gullible to a variety of offerings if presented properly, but the big boys are wise to a lot of the “same ‘ole, same ‘ole”.

Over the past few decades, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to examine the stomach contents of many large gag grouper. The staple in their diet is grass grunts and pinfish. Do you want a barely legal (24+ inch) fish, or a 30 +? In order catch the big one, you’ll need to present the bait that the big boys are looking for. A great way to start this process is to have a couple dozen pinfish in the live well from the bait pen or pinfish trap at marina. This is a “bird in hand” scenario and does not rely nor discount jigging up grass grunts where you stop to fish. The pinfish that are the diameter of a baseball to a softball are the prime candies… especially the larger ones. And please, don’t think you have to “trim” a pinfish. The last few hundred they ate were not “trimmed”. The larger baits actually eliminate the smaller fish and allow the bulls to get to it. I ALWAYS jig wherever I’m fishing…. for whatever is there. Be it grass grunts, sailors choice (offshore pinfish), cigs, sardines … whatever comes up is going right back down on the hook… and not just any hook, a Decoy Jig. It’s one thing to make a nice presentation, with a knocker rig, slider, Carolina rig etc.….but what I’m trying to create is an atmosphere of “Illusion”. My ultimate ledge begins with anchoring on the deep side of the ledge (close to the edge), and start firing down whole squid and/or minnows on every drop to “get the party started”. While everyone is keeping those endangered seabass, grunts and pinkies coming in the box, I’m firing down a sadiki to keep the grass grunts going into the live well. Once we’ve gone thru a half box of minnows and squid, we’ll start with the grouper baits. The squid and minnows are just for getting the smell and noise of a feeding frenzy happening on the bottom, that will certainly attract the gags, or red and scamps if you’re in the deeper water. If you have a live grass grunt pinned to a rattling jig that smells and looks like a crab, then it’s GAME ON for the old man of the ledge and his brothers. A crab or squid (looking jig) holding onto a struggling grass grunt that is (more than) disabled is way more than the adult gags brain can digest…Thus the “illusion”.

Where should you fish? Don’t run too far if you’re looking for a gag. 60-70 feet has always been productive this time of year, but head on out there once you have a limit of gags. This is where the pinfish in the live well will truly come into play.Scamps like a pinfish MUCH more than a grass grunt. Don’t worry about the reds, they’ll eat everything, but a scamp definitely has a taste for sailors choice and pinfish.

As always, take your kids fishing and “lead by example” the way to properly harvest and care for all the dinners “in the box”.

All the best fishing,
Tim Barefoot