It’s as simple as looking at a chart or running out of the channel a couple miles to realize how good our offshore fishing really is! While we don’t have lots of close-in offshore spots, we do have an abundance of natural and man-made reefs, limestone outcroppings, ledges, and offshore springs. All attract gag and red grouper, Florida red and mangrove snapper, king mackerel, cobia, sheepshead, black sea bass, and of course ‘Florida snapper’. Or…just be present at the Sea Hag when our offshore guides come back in, which is almost every afternoon!
‘Numbers’ are plentiful, and many are carefully guarded secrets. Below, you’ll find a link of popular public numbers that, although are busy on some weekends, usually produce good fishing results:
It’s not just location that catches offshore species–technique, bait and tackle count, but location is key! The basics for all offshore fishing are stout rods, beefy reels, heavy line and tackle. PENN Slammer II 6500 reel paired with a PENN Carnage II spinning rod, spooled with 50# line is a must (80# if you’re after the ‘big ones’!). Spiderwire or other braided lines will give you an advantage when feeling the bite, particularly if there are snapper nearby. You never know when that 20-pound-plus grouper will eye your snapper bait! Charlie Norwood, Capt. of the “Papa Gator” recommends Mann’s Stretch 30’s chrome/black (T30-87) when trolling for grouper.
There is a variety of bait choice to choose from when fishing offshore. The professionals prefer to buy their live and frozen bait from us. We provide tank full of live pinfish and we have several frozen coolers of bait. We have a high quality bait tank and water circulation system to ensure the best bait (pinfish and shrimp) money can buy. For frozen options, we offer chum, squid, Spanish sardines, threadfin herring and cigar minnows.
Bottom fishing is probably the most popular method of grouper and snapper fishing on the Big Bend. It’s a great feeling to successfully anchor on a great piece of bottom and have the fish start eating right away. If you want this to happen, proper rigging of good tackle is essential. Choose leaders that are strong enough for the species you’re targeting (80-100# for grouper, 40-50# for big snapper.), weights that are adequate to keep the bait on the bottom (Sometimes it takes an 8-to-12 ounce sinker!), and the proper hook (circle hooks). Many anglers swear by ‘knocker’ rigs and sliding sinker rigs for good hookups, while others prefer using bank sinkers below their baits. Most insist that the most important part of the equation is keeping the bait on the ‘spot’.
Kingfish are sometimes present when you’re bottom fishing over wrecks or live bottom, so always put out a live, free-lined bait. Blue runners or big pinfish rigged with 4x stinger treble hooks are perfect for this type of fishing. While bottom fishing, make sure you always have a line out for kingfish.
While winter means grouper (both red and gag) closer to shore in 30′ of water, it also means the availability of big spawning sheepshead. The big females overrun almost any area of structured bottom. Fish with ‘knocker’ rigs or 3/8 oz. jigheads baited with live shrimp, Gulp! shrimp or fiddler crabs on light tackle. Some of these fish reach 10 pounds or more and are great eating!
Unless you’re WAY, WAY offshore in the Big Bend, you probably don’t need to worry about fancy trolled arrays of teasers or high-speed runs. Here, it’s more the business of slow-trolling big lures (Mann’s Stretch 30’s) or stinger-rigged live blue runners for grouper or kings. Yes, we do see an occasional wahoo or sailfish, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. A big plug trolled at the proper depth (just above the bottom) is deadly and is also a great way to ‘prospect’ for new numbers.
If you’re just learning to fish our area, we highly suggest that you read our Fishing Reports and consider engaging with one of our offshore guides to get the basics. You certainly won’t learn his numbers, but a day with a professional guide can be very valuable. If you find that your tackle box is low on supplies, we’ve got a great selection in our Ship’s Store.