Offshore fishing has provided a great escape from the soupy, hot water and sluggish fish of the flats. Outside 30 miles, the water is lively with a variety of species.
Monday, we ventured 50 miles off Pasco County and easily caught our limit of red snapper, gag grouper and red grouper. Also mixed in were kingfish up to 25 pounds, amberjack, lane snapper, mangrove snapper, sharks and even mahi-mahi.
Red snapper: These fish are abundant in depths of 90 feet or more. Because the bag limit on them is two per person during the open season, finding the biggest fish will help make the most of it. Most of our largest red snapper have been caught over hard bottom areas with little vertical relief.
Red snapper are more common around larger bottom features. But the schools of smaller ones are so vast, it can be difficult to directly target the big ones. The larger schools have been made up of 3- to 6-pounders. But in the low relief spots, where there are fewer fish, we have caught some up to 18 pounds.
Venting the fish to be released is important. Many have expanded air bladders when pulled up from the bottom. In venting the expanded air out by gently puncturing them behind the pectoral fin with a venting tool, you greatly improve their chance of survival. Venting tools, the use of circle hooks and dehooking devices are mandatory on all vessels fishing for reef fish in federal waters.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. Call (727) 944-3474 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.