Sebastian Offshore: Feb. 2018

Suzanne and Derek Emerson, and their two boys sure enjoyed this sweet tasting cobia. Suzanne hooked it while bottom fishing in 80 feet of water using cut grunt. It pulled so hard she handed the rod over to her husband Derek. It rocketed to the surface and charged around the boat for a while until we finally scooped it up. Squid Lips cooked it for them on the way home. “Best fish ever” was the review! Photo credit: Capt. Randy Lang.

It is February in Sebastian and there is plenty of good offshore fishing to be done. Bottom fishing will continue to be solid. Grouper and red snapper are out of season but mangrove snapper, muttons, lanes, sea bass, triggerfish, and cobia will be on the menu. When bottom fishing, I like to keep at least one “trigger fish rig” in the water. This consists of a couple #1 hooks suspended off the bottom using dropper loop knots. Use a pinky-toe-sized bait.  That will allow the trigger to get the bait and small hook in their tiny mouths. Keeping the bait elevated a few feet will keep the bait away from grunts and increase tasty triggerfish hook-ups. Try using cut grunt and live baits on a bigger hook for other species. Get sneaky for the mangroves using #30 flourocarbon and minimal terminal tackle. Resident cobia will be on the bottom early this month around structure. When you hook one, he’ll run hard and then head for the surface. Remember to back off that drag if it is set tight for grouper. The cobes will charge hard around the boat and will need to be played out unlike other bottom fish.

Late February the cobia may start to show themselves. Watch for breaks in the surface temperature. Cobia don’t like water below the mid-sixties, so finding the warmer water this time of year is key. Often the breaks out in 90 feet will warm first early in the year. Spend a little time cruising down a subtle weed line in the 70 to 90 feet area in the afternoon.  The cobia will be warming themselves on the surface. Throw a swim bait or bucktail in front of them and watch them charge. If you are lucky enough to find the manta rays, the cobes will be under them. Watch for mantas breaching in the distance. You can also locate the mantas by seeing the “ink spot” in the water from a great distance on a sunny day.

Delicious tripletail will also be in full swing this month. They love this cold weather and will be hanging under any weeds or floating debris. If you see a significant weed line in the 50 to 70 feet range, check it out. You’ll need good sun to see them and calm seas helps. I like to have a light spinning rig on the boat this time of year, rigged with a Cajun Thunder and a #1 hook down 18 inches.  Live shrimp is best but frozen stuff or a piece of fresh cut bait works as well. Get upwind and throw past the sighted fish and slowly wind in until you’re close.  Pop the cork if necessary. Be patient and don’t get too close with the boat. They will spook easily and get lockjaw or drop out of sight. A well placed, small jig will do the job as well.

Kingfish fishing will continue to be solid this month. Keep a live bait or a frozen sardine freelined while bottom fishing. The kings will need a small wire leader. Target them by slow trolling and drifting over the reefs. Keep a couple baits near the surface and a couple baits at mid-depth. A simple rig is a 2-to-4-ounce jig head with a live bait or frozen sardine hooked through the lips and add a stinger if you can.  Make your own kingfish rigs with 40# sevenstrand wire. Use a figure eight knot to tie on the following to one continuous piece of wire: a swivel; 2-feet of wire; a #2 j-hook; 4-inches of wire; and a #4, 4x-strong treble hook. Add a “duster” in front of the j-hook to half of your rigs for extra flash. These rigs are cheap, easy to make, and effective.

For Gulf Stream fishing, try drifting live baits around fishy looking areas. When trolling out there, work some subsurface baits into the spread. Downriggers and down planers will greatly increase your chance of hooking a wahoo. A small lure way back will pick up tasty blackfin tuna as well. Although not considered a top month for dolphin, there will be some good dolphin days for those who find some warmer water.

So, don’t sit around waiting for spring. Get out there and catch some fish!

FORECAST BY: Capt. Randy Lang
Sebastian Gypsy Fishing Charters