Scout and you shall receive

Having a beautiful weather window we decided to get the boat fueled up, iced down, and loaded up for an overnight trip leaving Friday afternoon. Our game plan for this trip was to just scout and look for new areas and avoid fishing any previously explored spots. The crew for this trip included my father Marvin, my uncle Randall, my buddy Cody, a new friend Sam, and myself.

We hit the water just after 1:30 pm and made about a 3 hr run out. Not long after getting out I ran over a good mark. As I spun back around the bottom was lit up and looked pretty fishy. Once in position and spot locked we fired the jigs down and Sam instantly hooked up to a 10lb Red Snapper, while my father hooked up to something good but lost it. A few seconds later Cody hooks up to a nice fish and in comes a really nice 20lb Gag Grouper. Less than just a minute later Randall and myself both hook up. I brought in another average 10lb Red Snapper but Randall brought in a fat 18lb Red Grouper. Wanting to stick to the game plan we decided to leave the spot to continue scouting, but that was a great find for a new spot and the exact reason we were out there. 

The sun began to set as we continued to idle around looking. After little success of finding much more we decided to bump back in a little shallower to about 220’ to anchor up for the night and fish some hard bottom that I already had. We set anchor and fished for a few minutes, catching some more Red Snapper up to 18lbs and another 14lb Gag Grouper. Usually we spend half the night awake and fishing but I knew that we were going to have a long day ahead, so I decided to get dinner started early. As usual we don’t skimp on dinner for over night trips; we had fresh Snapper, Venison burgers, Ribeyes, and Fillet Mignons on the mini Blackstone.

After a quick clean up I set my alarm for a little before sunrise, climbed into my sleeping bag and got a good nights sleep.

Alarm went off and it was time to get up and get to work. We pulled anchor and made a move out to the 375-425’ range. Using some stuff I already had and some reference points a buddy gave me I begin to just idle around scouting. As I marked new bottom we would just drop a jig for 5 mins and see what and if anything was down there. We did that probably half a dozen times putting a couple Scamp, a Blackfin Tuna, and a Blueline Tile in the boat. Then, the next spot had a pretty good show of bait and fish. I dropped a black crackle 340 Stryke and on the way down the jig stopped mid-water column and ended up pulling in a nice 15lb Blackfin Tuna. Second drop still using the 340 Stryke, I hit bottom and instantly come tight, but didn’t get a hook in anything. I pitch once more and line goes slack, as I crank down to come tight it’s not there. I re-drop the few feet back to the bottom and instantly get tight again, this time getting some hooks in it. I instantly realize it’s a heavy fish with some big head shakes. After a nice little battle I start to see some bubbles and start to get excited as it floats up. After I saw it I started to yell it’s a Kitty. After a bunch of 'hell yeahs!' and congrats we boated the 34lb Kitty Mitchell (one of my bucket list fish). 

We then continued to make several moves picking off a fish or two here and there. Then I found a nice break and hard bottom, but the first couple of drops only produced missed strikes. Two of the guys switched to bait and instantly pulled up two quality gags. After a few more mins of no hits on the jig I decide to switch to bait. Within just a minute or two Cody and I hook up to quality fish. Cody ended up pulling up a beautiful 18lb Yellow Edge Grouper and I pulled up a solid 26lb Gag Grouper. We proceeded to catch a couple more quality size Gags before calling it a day and heading in. 

All in all it was a successful scouting trip and I will continue to put the time in to find new and better spots.

-Derek Engle