Go Grocery Shopping In January

By Capt. Tim Barefoot

With grouper season over, it’s time to switch gears and concentrate on other species. This is the time of year to size down and go for the snappers. Depending on water temps, it’s also a good idea to keep a light line out for any pelagics that swim by.

I love yellowtail and a mangrove snappers, but I really like jolt heads, triggerfish, pinkies, black sea bass and hog snapper. I treat bottom fishing like I’m going (organic) grocery shopping. First and foremost, I don’t shop on every aisle of the grocery store. I go down the aisles that contain the items I really want. The best groceries come from different places on the bottom and from different depths.

Farther north up the Atlantic coast there are a lot of beeliners (vermillion snapper) taking the place of yellowtails. In this mix will be triggerfish, which I absolutely love! Beeliners and triggerfish have one thing in common: the largest ones of the school stay higher in the water column. This is why I like to fish a level-wind reel versus a spinning reel with small circle hooks for this style of snapper fishing. I start dropping one “strip” of the reel at a time until I get down to the fish. A “strip” is the distance of raising the rod up with your thumb off the spool, and putting your thumb back on the spool. Simply let your thumb off the spool and let it fall in 10-foot “strips” while raising the rod tip upwards. Count the strips it takes to get down to the bites. Four strips will be approximately 40 feet deep. Note where you feel the first bite. This will usually be the largest triggers and beeliners in the school. If you stop getting bites or you’re only catching smaller fish, let this same tackle go deeper or all the way to the bottom. This is where you’ll catch the jolt heads, black sea bass, mangroves and hogs.

I use a two-hook “chicken rig” made of 50-pound fluoro with small circle hooks and a 3-ounce bank sinker. I bait it with small pieces of squid. A small 2- or 3-ounce jig works with the same tackle as the weight instead of a bank sinker. This is especially effective on large triggers. Just replace the treble hooks or single J hooks on the back of the jig with small circle hooks and tip with a small piece of squid.

I could go on and on about this style of fishing. The limits are pretty good and the reward comes at the table. It is a good time of year to take youngsters out, because this style of fishing produces lots of action, and it’s not heavy-duty grouper fishing. Little ones love a trip to the “organic grocery store.”

See more from Tim Barefoot at www.barefootcatsandtackle.com and check out a video explaining this style of fishing at 


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