Goodbye 2017. Hello 2018! It’s a new year and a new batch of fish are moving through. Groupers are biting excellent on the drift fishing trips. Blacks, gags, reds and strawberry groupers are all biting on the Ft Lauderdale reef. Unfortunately, all groupers just went out of season on January 1st, so they all have to be thrown back. We call them happy groupers for the next few months. Still, it’s fun to catch them even though we can’t keep them. Since they have created the seasonal closure for groupers, every year there are more and more groupers biting out there. 2017 was a banner year for them. It’s been great to see them so abundant this past year.
Besides grouper, our drift fishing trips are still catching lots of keeper snappers, jacks, porgies, kingfish and sometimes even cobia and mahi mahi. There are still plenty of fish to catch that you can keep for dinner, even though groupers are pure catch and release for the next few months. Look for a few cobia to be biting out there this month. They follow closely behind sea turtles, whales, rays and any other large slow moving marine creatures. Keep a pitch bait ready in case something like that swims up near to the boat. Your preparation may pay off big time when you are ready with a pitch bait to toss and the guy fishing next to you is not.
For snappers, night is probably the best time to catch them. During the daytime hours, snapper mainly stay put in their holes, venturing out only a short distance to grab an easy snack. For this reason, drifting over the reefs is the best way to target them. When you are drifting, even though it doesn’t feel like you are moving, you are actually covering a lot of territory. At night, snappers come out of their hiding spots and venture out in search of food. This is why we anchor and chum at night. We anchor the boat and chum the water heavily to get the fish to come to us. The snappers smell the chum in the water just like you can smell barbeque cooking in your neighborhood from blocks away. Snappers will travel far and wide at night to look for food, so if you chum, they will come. Anchoring and chumming is very effective this time of year at night for mangroves, yellowtails, muttons and groupers.
Good luck to everyone fishing this month. There are plenty of fish biting. You just have to go out there and get a bait wet.
I’ll sea ya on the water.
Capt. Paul Roydhouse