If you wish to capture adequate fish in the Upper Gulf for a fish fry this year, you’ll have to fish for the aggregate, comprised of an overall of 20 different types, each with its own size and bag-limit restrictions. You can have five grouper, but only two red grouper; two American red snapper at least 16 inches long; one amberjack, 10 mangrove snapper; plus triggerfish, vermilion snapper and other types. Ironically enough, the trick ends up being not only effectively targeting fish, however preventing fish. How do you, for instance, catch triggerfish and not catch the abundant red snapper, or catch amberjack when king mackerel won’t stay off your baits? It’s hard. To discover how to capture the aggregate successfully, we spoke with Captain Butch Tucker of Orange Beach, AL, a 38-year veteran of fishing the Gulf of Mexico.
” I have actually fished from Louisiana to Panama City, Florida, throughout my career, and for the last 18 years, I’ve fished out of Orange Beach, AL,” Tucker states. “Prior to I got my captain’s license, I was a business fisherman. In overall, I have actually fished the Gulf of Mexico for 44 years.”
Until about 20 years back, saltwater fish in the Gulf of Mexico had no seasons, size or bag limitations. “Initially, these catch limitations were a great idea,” Tucker points out. “But recently, red snapper have actually become so over-protected that they’re now taking advantage of triggerfish and other reef fish. The red snapper’s ending up being a detriment to other types in the Upper Gulf Coast waters.” Today, instead of trying to catch red snapper, most saltwater anglers need to look for methods not to capture them.
” If you’ll be capturing the aggregate, start by catching live bait like blue runners, pinfish, croakers and others that you can feed to the larger fish,” Tucker recommends. “If you can’t capture live bait, you may be able to purchase it.”
Regardless of the types he’s targeting first, Tucker puts out “plume dusters” and giants on the way to his fishing grounds. “Most anglers use 60-pound-test wire line for high-speed trolling, to enable their baits to obtain much deeper than monofilament line will,” Tucker stresses.
Numerous anglers choose standard trolling lures for quick trolling, however others lean towards other lures created to track right at trolling speeds upwards of 12 knots. Fifteen to 20 feet in front of the lure, a lot of anglers run a one- to a 1-1/2- pound result in assist get the line and the lure deeper in the water. The boats troll these lures at 15 knots or less in hopes of catching king mackerel, bonito, wahoo or possibly blackfin tuna. You can keep two king mackerel, which normally range from 8 to 50 pounds, per person. If you catch two or 3 wahoo, consider it a terrific fishing day.
” Since we have live bait, my 2nd target species will be amberjack,” Tucker discusses. “Amberjack tend to hold on big wrecks, offshore rocks and reefs and deep-water gas and oil platforms– essentially any large manufactured or natural structures that can support plenty of baitfish.”
You can capture amberjack in water as shallow as 60 feet deep to depths of 400 feet, but usually in the mid or upper stories of the water column. “We use 60- to 80-pound main line and put a 6- to 8-ounce slip lead up the line,” Tucker discusses. “Listed below the sinker, we’ll incorporate a barrel swivel and 6 to 12 feet of leader.”
Amberjack can be finicky feeders. If they’re aggressive, however, you’ll just require a 6-foot leader. If resident AJs have experienced intense fishing pressure, you’ll dramatically increase your opportunities of catching them using a 12-foot leader. If you have small live baits, like pinfish or croakers, you might wish to use a 5/0 hook. However, if you’re fishing with bigger baits, like blue runners or vermilion snapper, you might want to go bigger– an 8/0 or 9/0. The size of the bait and the size of the amberjack you’re targeting generally will dictate the size of the hook you’ll have to use.
” We let our lines down gradually till we feel the amberjack take the bait,” Tucker notes. “Then we set the hook and begin reeling. Bear in mind that amberjack typically hold well off the bottom, from 30 feet approximately within a foot or two of the surface area.”
Today you can catch one amberjack per person in the aggregate. Nevertheless, this guideline might change, so check the limitations before you head out. Once Tucker has caught amberjack, he’ll search for red snapper.
Locating Quick and Easy Snapper
” We can fish one artificial reef or rock stack and limit out on red snapper,” Tucker says with confidence. “Since the limitation is only two snapper per person, and there are more red snapper on the Upper Gulf Coast now than before, catching the two-snapper limitation is a fast and easy task.”
If you’re fishing for 2- to 4-pound snapper, use a two-hook rig and cut bait like squid, northern mackerel, stogie fish or bonito. However if you’re targeting big red snapper, you have two options.
” If we’re fishing in fairly shallow water, 130 feet or less, we’ll use a knocker rig fished on a light-action deck rod or a heavy-action fishing pole with 30- to 50-pound line,” Tucker states. “We’ll use a 2-ounce slip lead up the line and connect a 5/0 hook to the end of the knocker rig. By doing this, when the bait is erupted, the lead slides down the line ahead of the bait. By the time the lead reaches the bottom, it frequently separates itself from the hook, leaving 12 to 15 feet of totally free line between the lead laying on the bottom and the bait on the hook. By having this much separation, the bait usually can fall or swim to the bottom in a far more natural action than if the lead is more detailed to the bait. The knocker is specifically efficient when you’re fishing for big snapper in shallow water.”
Truly big snapper concentrate in depths of 200 feet or more. In this deeper water, Tucker recommends fishing a plant rig on 60- to 80-pound test line. You’ll normally have an 8-ounce slip sinker up the line, a barrel swivel listed below the sinker and 5 to 12 feet of 50-pound-test mono coming off the bottom end of the barrel swivel with a 5/0 to 8/0 hook on business end.
When fishing the plant rig, you’ll still use the huge baits you have actually placed on the knocker rig, but the sow rig lets your bait reach bottom quicker and remain there much better than the lighter-weight knocker rig does. Given that you only can catch and keep two red snapper, a lot of anglers fish for the greatest they can find using these two rigs.
” Typically, after capturing our red snapper limit, we’ll have amberjack and maybe one or two wahoo in the cooler as well, so it’s time to target the remainder of the fish in the aggregate,” Tucker states.
Finishing the Aggregate Gets Hard
” Since we can just keep an overall of 20 fish per individual, we’ll target white, lane, vermilion and mangrove snapper, in addition to scamp, grouper and triggerfish,” Tucker discusses. “Getting a limitation of five grouper with no more than two of them being reds– particularly where I fish– is truly hard. This isn’t to state we will not capture grouper, but if we’re attempting to catch the aggregate, the grouper needs to end up being an incidental catch. I ‘d rather invest the remainder of my time fishing where our opportunities are better for capturing other types of snapper and triggerfish.”
Tucker states triggerfish typically hold in water less than 200 feet deep, especially on natural structure in 90 to 130 feet. “I have actually discovered that live coral or rock bottoms tend to produce more white and vermilion snapper and triggerfish than wrecks, artificial reefs and oil or gas platforms do,” Tucker describes.
Initially, fishermen would set up where the continental shelf drops from 300 feet to more than 1,000 feet to attempt and stay away from the red snapper. Nevertheless, since great deals of Upper Gulf red snapper have vacated into deeper water, Tucker now sees shallow, live bottom as the best location to hide from red snapper while looking for the aggregate.
” I search for bottom structure that traditionally hasn’t held red snapper in order to complete the aggregate,” Tucker states, but admits that discovering such locations has actually become increasingly challenging.
” For the previous 38 years I’ve fished a spot on the west end of the Trysler Grounds, which is a live bottom southeast of Orange Beach,” Tucker states. “Although I have actually captured a couple of red snapper here, I’ve never caught a great deal of them– generally I catch vermilions and whites. However in early Might of 2008, I fished this spot with two-hook rigs, and the first time my customers let their lines down to the bottom, every one of them caught two red snapper.”
To take the other types of snapper and triggerfish, Tucker uses 60- to 80-pound-test line, to which he connects a high-low rig with 2/0 to 3/0 hooks and a 12-ounce lead. “We use smaller sized cut bait, like squid, northern mackerel or cigar minnows,” Tucker explains. “If we’re lucky, and the red snapper do not move into the area, we can complete out our aggregate with smaller sized reef fish and head home with lots of fish in package.”
Learning the Hard Cold Facts
In the Upper Gulf of Mexico from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, catching the aggregate has actually ended up being harder as red snapper populations have taken off. The American red snapper appears to have actually displaced a number of the other once-plentiful reef fish on reefs and wrecks. Although you’ll enjoy catching and launching red snapper, you’ll have even more enjoyable catching the aggregate and taking home fish to eat.