Category Archives: Saltwater Fishing

Everything saltwater fishing


Tips on Avoiding Barotrauma
from The Fishing Wire

Device taking fish to bottom

NOAA’s Deepwater Horizon restoration partners at the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission selected three new partners to conduct studies on reef fish restoration in the Gulf of Mexico. They were chosen through a competitive process, and the awards total approximately $690,000.

These studies are contributing to a $30 million project to encourage anglers to use fish descending devices. These devices increase survival of reef fish experiencing barotrauma in the Gulf’s recreational fisheries approved by the Deepwater Horizon Open Ocean Trustees.

Barotrauma is damage caused by the rapid expansion of gases in fish that are caught in deeper water and quickly brought up to the surface. As the gases expand, they can damage the eyes, stomach, and other parts of the fish. This makes it difficult for them to swim back down and survive once released. Descending devices help fish by quickly releasing them at their normal depth, reducing the number of reef fish that die from catch and release fishing.

Coming to a Charter Boat (or Inbox) Near You

Decender Device on Charter Boat

An angler holds a red fish with a fish descender device, about to release it back into the water.
Fish descender devices come in multiple forms, this one is pressure activated, releasing the fish at a specific depth automatically. Credit: NOAA Fisheries, Florida Sea Grant
All three studies will focus on the use of descending devices to help fish return to their underwater habitats, away from predators. Anglers can help restore fish populations impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill by using these devices.

The first two studies will be conducted offshore, working with close to 40 recreational charter boat captains. Captains will:

Recapture fish previously tagged and released using descending devices, to increase understanding of survival rates
Deploy underwater cameras to shed light on whether predators, like sharks, are targeting fish when they are released with descender devices
Receive training on best practices while using descending devices
Gulf reef fish anglers should also be on the lookout for mail and email surveys from partners at Southwick Associates. These surveys will help the project team understand barriers to using descending devices. By participating in the studies, anglers will help inform future angler outreach and education methods.

Study Descriptions

Results from the three studies will contribute to restoration efforts that increase the health of reef fisheries impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, while improving angler experiences. The work will be carried out through 2025.

Determination of Predation Mortality, Barotrauma Survival, and Emigration Patterns for Catch-and-Released Red Snapper
Partner: Dr. Stephen Szedlmayer, Auburn University School of Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Aquatic Sciences
Award: $250,750
Timeline: 20-month project, ends December 2022
A team from Auburn University will collaborate with eight charter vessel operators to better understand the survival rates of red snapper released with descending devices. The team will tag and release red snapper across a range of locations and depths off the coast of Alabama and Mississippi. Participating captains will return to the tagging sites within 2 to 4 weeks to recapture as many tagged fish as possible. A combination of different tagging methods will provide a robust evaluation of descending methods and their effect on red snapper survival.

Barotrama make fish easy meals

A shark opens its mouth for a struggling fish underwater.

This fish was an easy lunch for a bull shark after being released without help from a descending device. Credit: NOAA Fisheries, Florida Sea Grant
Do Descender Devices Increase Opportunities for Depredation? A Gulf-wide Examination of Descender Device Depredation Rates and Depredating Species
Partner: Dr. Marcus Drymon, Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center
Award: $238,981
Timeline: 32-month project, ends December 2023
Working with 30 charter boat captains, this study will document whether hooked reef fish are eaten by predators and which species are responsible. This team from Mississippi State University will train and incentivize captains across the Gulf of Mexico to use descending devices and film fish releases with cameras. The team will then analyze the video footage, and results will be used to inform best release practices and address depredation concerns with descended fish. The project team will make short videos to train captains on data collection processes and share project results with stakeholders.

Measuring Changes in Angler Awareness and Use of Fish Descending Devices
Partner: Southwick Associates
Award: $200,000
Timeline: Baseline study in 2021, follow-up study in 2025.
Southwick Associates will assess recreational reef fish anglers’ current knowledge of fish descending devices. The goal is to establish an understanding of anglers’ perceptions about releasing reef fish and identify barriers to using descending gear. Understanding barriers will inform future education and outreach, and help anglers learn the advantages of best release practices. In 2025, the team will measure the change in anglers’ awareness and adoption of descending gear over time.

Improving Recreational Fish Survival is One Project Among Many Restoring Marine Resources After Deepwater Horizon

Fish showing barotrama damage

An angler holds a fish, its mouth open and air bladder inflated from barotrauma.

Barotrauma expands gasses in a fish causing the air bladder and other organs to expand as well, making it difficult for fish to swim after release. Credit: NOAA Fisheries, Florida Sea Grant
These studies are one part of a comprehensive $30 million project reducing barotrauma injuries and deaths in reef fish. The project also aims to increase successful use of fish descender devices by distributing them to recreational anglers and providing information on their use. Supplying fishermen with the tools and knowledge to minimize barotrauma-related fish death and injury will result in increased survival of species released during recreational fishing activities.

This barotrauma project was one of four fish restoration projects funded by the Deepwater Horizon Open Ocean Trustees’ 2019 $226 million restoration plan. The remaining 14 projects in the plan are restoring sea turtles, marine mammals, and deep-sea coral habitats.

Hundreds of fish species were exposed to oil during and after the Deepwater Horizon spill. The exposure killed fish larvae that would have grown and contributed to the food web and fisheries. It also impaired fish growth and reproduction and caused changes in reef fish communities. Recognizing these and other impacts, the settlement with BP included $380 million to help restore injuries to fish and water column invertebrates.

Trolling Seattle’s Puget Sound for Blackmouth

By John Keizer, Salt Patrol
from The Fishing Wire

Connected to the ocean, Puget Sound is a massive inland sea that at its beginning marks the northern boundary between Washington State and Canada before turning southward past Seattle-Tacoma all the way to Olympia. And while Puget Sound’s many rivers support salmon that migrate to the ocean and back again years later, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife manipulates the release timing of some hatchery salmon (referred to as Blackmouth) such that they stay within Puget Sound their whole lives.The name Blackmouth comes from the black gum line that identifies the fish as a chinook salmon. Resident Blackmouth salmon range in size from the just legal 22 inches up to fish nearing the twenty pound mark.

We have all heard the line, “Find the bait and you will find the fish.” It sounds so easy but many anglers ignore this simple advice when trying to locate salmon. Blackmouth salmon are voracious feeders and will be constantly on the search for Sand Lance (candlefish) or Herring to fill their bellies. And while food sources are a big draw for Puget Sound Blackmouth, where these salmon might be lurking and when they’re willing to bite has a lot to do with bottom structure and what the current is doing based on the in-and-out flow of daily ocean tides.

The Sand Lance, also known as “candlefish,” because pioneers used them to make candles due to their high oil content is an ecologically important forage fish for salmon throughout Puget Sound. As you might guess the salmon crave the high oil content of these small forage fish. According to recent studies 35% of juvenile salmon diets are composed of Sand Lance and Blackmouth salmon depend on them for 60% of their diet.Herring tend to linger in resting spots that are dictated by the ever changing current. As in river fishing, the bait and following salmon will be pushed into the lee (downstream) side of a current flow behind points of land and islands. The same is true in Puget Sound, knowing the position of the tide will allow you to find the best locations where baitfish are likely to linger and salmon congregate.

Trolling your gear in combination with a downrigger is in my opinion the best method for consistently catching Blackmouth from Puget Sound. I spend much of the winter fishing season employing this fishing method. So much so that I run three Hi Performance Scotty downriggers onboard my 27 foot “Salt Patrol” North River boat. Being able to cover lots of water with your tackle at a controlled depth is an extremely effective way to fish for Blackmouth salmon in the deep waters of Puget Sound.For salmon trolling my rod and reel outfits include Shimano Tekota-A 600 line-counter reels matched with a G. Loomis E6X 1265 moderate action rods. The reels are spooled up with 30-pound test monofilament line.

And while we have used many different lures to catch salmon over the years the all-new SpinFish bait-holding plug has been a game changer for us. In addition to its unique vibrating, spinning, wounded-baitfish action the SpinFish features a pull-apart bait chamber design that disperses scent as it’s pulled through the water column.I was lucky to get to test prototypes of the SpinFish last fall. My first experience with the SpinFish started with targeting winter Blackmouth out of Port Townsend located on the northern part of Puget Sound. To attract salmon to our gear we ran the SpinFish in combination with 11” rotating flashers and medium size Fish Flash.

This combination produced immediate results for Blackmouth up to 15 pounds. The first thing we noticed was that the strikes on the SpinFish were vicious as compared to using just bait. The Blackmouth hit the SpinFish hard, running a bunch of line off the reel before racing to the surface. Several times the rod tip would be in the water and the fish pulling line right from the get go.To add bait to the SpinFish you just pull apart the lure body and fill with any bait. What we often use is herring or sardine cut bait. But what seems to work best on Puget Sound is canned Chicken of the Sea Tuna packed in oil. We just mixed the canned tuna, making sure to include its natural oil, with Pro-Cure’s Bloody Tuna scent and fill the bait chamber with it.We rigged our SpinFish 25 to 40 inches behind a Fish Flash or 35 to 45 inches behind our rotating flashers. While SpinFish come pre-rigged from the factory when re-rigging we snelled two 4/0 size Mustad octopus hooks close together using 30 pound Seaguar fluorocarbon leader and add one glow bead above the top hook to act as a bearing for the SpinFish. We then slid the SpinFish down the leader and attached a swivel to the lead end before attaching to our flashers.

The SpinFish can be rigged to spin clockwise or counterclockwise and unlike other bait-holding lures, it needs no rubber bands to keep the lure together. The holes in the SpinFish will disperse the scent into the water and salmon will follow the scent trail back to the lure. Because there are undersized Blackmouth around, we check our gear every 30 minutes or so to make sure we are not pulling around an undersized fish. My routine is to have four or five SpinFish pre-loaded with bait and ready to swap out each time we catch a salmon or conduct a gear check. Blackmouth bite windows are short and you don’t want to waste time rigging tackle when the best bite of the day is happening.

The new SpinFish comes in two sizes, a three inch and a four-inch version. And while we have had the best success using the three incher early in the season, the four inch model will likely be the go-to sizes as the baitfish get larger.Blackmouth are aggressive feeders and tend to feed when the current is minimal to expend as little energy as possible. That means the best time to catch them is when you’re fishing in the right current flow. You may have heard that the best fishing for salmon is one to two hours before or after a tide change. What we have found is the very best bite is right before or right after the change, when currents are soft.

While trolling I spend a lot of time with my eyes glued to my Lowrance HDS Live sonar screen watching for where bait or salmon are congregating and adjusting my rigger depth accordingly. I often bracket the water column by adding depth on each pass until I hook a fish or locate where the bait and salmon are holding. And while I do change depth based on what my electronics reveal my go-to depth, when all else fails, is to run my SpinFish tight to the bottom.As you might guess, my early success using this all-new lure has me jazzed up for fishing it more and more. I know how well it works for Puget Sound Blackmouth and got to believe it will work for other fish too.

For more information on the Yakima Bait SpinFish visit:
Capt. John Keizer

Tips for Catching Trout and Redfish on Soft Plastics

By Daniel Nussbaum, Z-Man Fishing Products
from The Fishing Wire

All along the Southeast and Gulf coasts, redfish and spotted seatrout are primary targets of most inshore anglers, and for good reason, too. They are relatively abundant most everywhere, can be targeted year-round, and are accessible from land or boat. Redfish are dogged fighters that never seem to give up, and sight fishing for reds or watching them run down a well-presented bait is an absolute hoot. While targeting trophy trout is a borderline obsession for some, for most, speck fishing is more about action, numbers, and aggressive bites, which they willingly seem to provide throughout their range.

Most importantly, both reds and trout can be consistently targeted using soft plastic lures. While live bait can often be more effective, that isn’t always the case, and most would agree that casting lures and tricking a fish into eating something fake is simply more rewarding and fun. That said, there are a few mistakes that we see inshore anglers making time-and-again.

Getting a handle on some simple technique and gear-related missteps will definitely help you put more redfish and seatrout in the boat. Fishing Too Fast. As one of the best inshore fishermen I know once told me, “If you think you’re fishing too slow, then slow it down some more.” Whether simply reeling too fast or working the bait too quickly with the rod, most folks would be well-served by slowing down their cadence a bit. For starters, gamefish are looking for an easy meal, not a tough one; they’re wired to expend as little energy possible to run down their prey. Fishing baits at a slower pace often garners more strikes for this reason, particularly when fish are pressured, lethargic due to very high or low water temperatures, or stingy due to bluebird conditions.

Many types of forage that artificials mimic – shrimp, crabs, worms, and baitfish – spend most of their time on or close to the bottom. Gamefish themselves often stick close to the bottom to maintain a stealthy profile for ambush feeding, avoid predation, and consume less energy by staying out of high water flow zones. Fishing baits slower mimics bottom crawling forage and keeps them in the strike zone for longer rather than zipping by quickly overhead. Sure, there are times when rapid retrieves generate reaction strikes from passive fish or accurately mimic baitfish moving quickly at mid-depth or on the surface. But perhaps more often, simply dragging and dead-sticking baits along the bottom will consistently get bites. To this point, one mistake anglers make is not letting the bait work for them.

With buoyant baits made from ElaZtech, the tails float up off the bottom at rest, coming to life and drawing strikes even on the slowest retrieves. Poor Line Management. Line management is a concept that is difficult to explain and takes time to master. While a straight retrieve can be effective, more often than not, inshore anglers find success by imparting some kind of action to their lures by working their rods. Giving the bait an erratic, rising and falling motion that imitates an injured baitfish or fleeing shrimp and can trigger aggressive strikes. On the period immediately following the jerk or twitch, the bait is allowed to settle to the bottom, and most strikes occur at this time—on the fall.

The key to line management is allowing the bait to fall naturally, while still maintaining enough tension so that light bites can be detected. Some of the biggest fish are the lightest biters, as they strike by simply opening their mouths, creating a vacuum and sucking in the bait without aggressively striking it. If there’s too much slack in the line, you might never even feel the bite. Conversely, if you apply too much tension on the fall, the bait may look or feel unnatural, and the fish may not strike or could spit the hook when it feels pressure. This is a difficult line to walk and takes time on the water to master. Line management is particularly important on the initial cast and descent. The small ‘splat’ that a softbait makes when it hits the water can be like ringing the dinner bell for a hungry redfish or seatrout. In many cases, strikes occur on the initial descent before many even engage the reel. If you allow the bait to fall freely to the bottom and allow too much slack in the line, you may be missing bites. Instead, try to allow the bait to settle to the bottom naturally while maintaining a bit of tension on the line so quick strikes can be detected. Using Tackle That Is Too Heavy.

When many think of saltwater fishing, they envision using big, stout rods and reels capable of horsing in sea monsters. As far as technology has come, this certainly is no longer the case. Nowadays, the best inshore rod and reel combos are more akin to freshwater tackle than saltwater tackle of yesteryear. The advent of microfilament braided lines, carbon fiber drags, composite reel bodies, lightweight rod guides and reel seats, and resin infused high modulus graphite rods allows saltwater anglers to tackle some pretty hefty fish on featherweight gear. Keep in mind that the lighter the rod and reel, the easier it is to feel light bites, and the less fatigue you will experience from continuous casting throughout the day.

Superbraid lines have changed inshore fishing for the better as the thin diameter and lack of stretch allow for a more natural presentation and far greater sensitivity. The smaller the line diameter, the further you can cast light weight lures. Being able to reach fish from longer distances allows for a stealthier approach in shallow water, and longer casts allow you to cover more water. Due to the incredibly thin diameter of the 10 to 20 pound test line used for inshore fishing, line capacity is no longer a concern, allowing you to use small, lightweight spinning and baitcasting reels. Nowadays, my entire inshore arsenal is comprised of 1000 and 2500 size spinning reels or baitcasters in the 70 to 100 size range mounted on medium light or medium power, fast or extra fast action rods in 6’6″ to 7′ range.

Rods with fast or extra fast tapers are critical, as their light tips provide sensitivity and help sling light lures long distances, while the stiff butt and mid sections offer the backbone needed to turn stubborn fish. Don’t skimp on a quality outfit either; it’s amazing how well high quality graphite rods cast and how sensitive they are, and a decent sealed saltwater reel will provide years of service under normal use, even when subjected to blistering redfish runs. Unless you’re fishing around structure or for larger fish, there’s simply no need for heavier tackle for day-to-day redfish, seatrout, and flounder fishing in the backcountry or marsh, as long as you’re using quality gear. Limiting Bait Selection. Without a doubt, everyone has their favorite confidence bait—the one that you’ve caught more or bigger fish on than anything else and that you always seem to have rigged up. Undoubtedly, you will catch the most fish on whatever is tied onto the end of your line, and more often than not, you’ve got your go-to bait tied on. Do you catch more on that bait because it works better or because you use it more often?

There is no doubt that certain bait profiles and colors are consistent producers, but on any given day, the best bait profile, size, or color likely varies based on a variety of factors, including water clarity, forage, weather conditions, tidal flow, water temperature, and who knows what else. Pigeon-holing yourself with one particular pattern is simply a mistake. On every inshore trip, I set out with an assortment of softbaits in various shapes, sizes and colors.

My typical selection consists of 4″ and 5″ Scented Jerk ShadZ, 3″ Slim SwimZ, 3″ MinnowZ, 4″ and 5″ DieZel MinnowZ, 4″ Scented PaddlerZ, 3.5″ EZ ShrimpZ, 5″ TroutTricks, and some Ned Rig baits like the Finesse TRD or TRD TicklerZ, along with a variety of Trout Eye and NedlockZ Jigheads and ChinlockZ swimbait hooks. These baits and hooks will cover just about all of your bases, from shallow to deep.

Reading conditions is critical to selecting the right bait for the situation. If terns are swooping down overhead and baitfish like glass minnows or fry are flickering the surface, then a smaller profile bait like the 3″ Slim SwimZ gets the nod. If herons are picking off shrimp on the shoreline, tying on an EZ ShrimpZ makes perfect sense. If mullet pods are running the banks, match the size of forage with a swimbait with aggressive swimming action, like the 3″ MinnowZ or 4″ or 5″ DieZel MinnowZ.

If the water is clear, the sun is high, and fish are laid up or not aggressively feeding, something super subtle like a Ned Rig might be the best approach. And perhaps most importantly, if you feel like you’re around fish and what you’re using isn’t working, change it up and try something different. Going Crazy with Colors. Yes, you are reading this correctly: a lure company is telling you that you don’t need to run out and buy every color we make. That said, having an assortment of different colors for varying situations is definitely important. The fact that companies offer literally hundreds of colors seems to complicate things, but following a few simple rules will help get your tackle selection dialed in. First and foremost, matching the hatch is always a good rule of thumb. If mullet are the predominant forage in your area, colors like Mulletron or Smoky Shad are good to have on-hand. If fish are feeding on shrimp, some natural looking shrimp colors like Greasy Prawn, Houdini, or Laguna Shrimp are good matches.

If reds are rooting around for crustaceans, earthy tones that blend in with the bottom, like The Wright Stuff or Redfish Toad, are solid choices. One of the key factors in color selection is water clarity. In clear water, I usually opt for more translucent and natural tones, like Opening Night or Smelt. In stained or tannic water, darker colors with a little bit of flash like Gold Rush or New Penny seem to perform well. In muddy water, brighter colors, particularly those with chartreuse like Space Guppy or Sexy Mullet are good choices, as are luminescent glow in the dark colors. Through fishing a number of locales from the Carolinas to Louisiana, a few other solid color trends have emerged.

First, Pearl (or some close variant like Pearl Blue Glimmer or Slam Shady) seems to produce in a variety of situations and water clarity scenarios. White shows up well in dark or muddy water and isn’t too unnatural or loud in clear water. Most baitfish have white sides, so it appears natural most everywhere, and it stands out against dark mud bottoms while still creating a natural silhouette over light sand.

Second, baits with chartreuse tails simply work. A lodge owner in Louisiana once explained to me that this is because shrimp ‘light up’ in a chartreuse hue when chased, and I have personally noticed tails of baitfish like menhaden exhibiting a yellowish tint. I feel that part of this is the contrast between the body and tail and believe that gamefish key in on this contrast. Baits with bright tails work in both clear and muddy water. In clear water, I prefer a color with a clear body like Shrimp Po Body, while in stained water, a bait with a darker body color like Rootbeer/Chartreuse is a good choice. In the muddiest water, the Glow/Chartreuse color seems to show up best.

Finally, wherever you go, redfish like the color gold. Everyone knows that a simple gold spoon is a redfish staple, and for good reason. Having some baits littered with gold flake, like Golden Boy or the new Beer Run color, is always a good idea when reds are the target. The bottom line is that while colors matter, having a few different options for different water conditions, along with a few other favorites, is really all that’s necessary. Again, if what you’re using isn’t working, don’t be afraid to switch it up and try something different.

Top 5 Saltwater Shrimp and Jerkbaits

Own these and you are outfitted for every region, condition, and inshore species that swims
from The Fishing Wire

Open the lid of any saltwater tackle box and you are certain to see a menagerie of shapes, sizes, and colors that is more dynamic than a confectionary (for all you kids, that means a candy shop). You might have to rub off some rust to appreciate the brilliant rainbow of colors, but trust it’s there.To more fully grasp the eye-popping selection of available colors and schemes, sans rust, meander down the aisles of any well-stocked tackle shop. The Willy Wonka sights can easily overwhelm the senses; making actual selections can turn into an exercise in extended head-scratching. So, to simplify shopping, we’ve amassed a Top-5 list of inshore saltwater shrimp lures and jerkbaits with input from some of saltwater fishing’s brightest minds.


Every legitimate saltwater fishery in the world is home to one or more species of shrimp. And the better news? Every gamefish worth its salt preys on this ubiquitous forage. Moreover, shrimp imitations are simple to fish.The only thing better than the perfectly shaped shrimp softbait is one that’s internally weighted and adjustable. Z-Man’s anatomically accurate 3-1/2” Rigged EZ ShrimpZ bears an internal, notched ¼-ounce weight that can be pinched off all the way down to 1/8 ounce. The weight is ideally keeled, too, yielding a level drop and upright posture when it rests on the bottom. Genius.

More about its physique… The durable ElaZtech® Rigged EZ ShrimpZ features a segmented body, giving it lifelike looks and a natural action. Its thin, short appendages proffer a realistic quivering movement and improved wind resistance for increased castability.Made in the USA, the Rigged EZ ShrimpZ contains a 2/0 Mustad® hook and come in ready-to-fish two packs. Replacement bodies are also available.Operation is simple: cast it out and work the bait back with short snaps, letting it freefall to the bottom, or near bottom, between pops. Certainly, alter retrieval speed and aggressiveness of the snaps based on fish responses. Sometimes, all you need to do is slowly drag it across the bottom. If you’re dogged about realism, squeeze Pro-Cure Super Gel in the pack and let the baits baste in the savory concoction.

Z-Man’s Rigged EZ ShrimpZ is the perfect companion to a popping cork, too, often outfishing real shrimp – and without the worry of bait tearing away on the cast or pops. Pesky pinfish and other small marauders can’t dismember it, either. And being available in a multitude of colors, you can broker change, matching indigenous shrimp or tendering eye-catching colors in stained water.

VETARGET Fleeing Shrimp
Along with the aforementioned, LIVETARGET’s Fleeing Shrimp is the only other shrimp imitation you’ll ever need. It’s the most anatomically and visually precise shrimp bait ever designed. In fact, the Fleeing Shrimp won the prestigious Best New Saltwater Lure at ICAST in 2018, as voted on by the industry.The LIVETARGET Fleeing Shrimp seamlessly combines a biologically precise shrimp profile and anatomy, a dynamic color palette, biomimetic action and robust saltwater components to synthesize a soft lure that uniquely replicates the appearance, action, sound, and even the scent of a living shrimp. 

The action-packed LIVETARGET Fleeing Shrimp is, at its heart, a soft lure, but one that uniquely replicates a natural shrimp’s appearance. A portion of this biomimetic perfection stems from having a body size and shape that accurately recalls a living shrimp, bristling with three-dimensional anatomical features including tail and thorax segmentation, eyes, antennae, and more. A custom-designed jighead sporting an extra-strong corrosion-resistant hook blends seamlessly with the Fleeing Shrimp’s soft body, accentuating the lure’s ultra-natural profile. A broad spectrum of eight color patterns completes the visual deception.

The LIVETARGET Fleeing Shrimp truly comes to life when the angler imparts action, either popping it along the bottom or swimming it beneath the surface. The Fleeing Shrimp’s proprietary skirt masterfully emulates a living shrimp’s front legs, both in motion and at rest. When the shrimp is “fleeing” in a natural, backwards direction, the skirt folds together like the front legs of a living shrimp. When the shrimp comes to rest on the bottom, it stands perfectly upright with the head tipped slightly upward, while the skirt material fans outward and gently flows up and down, creating a subtle, lifelike action that will entice a bite and not spook wary fish.

Artistry meets engineering in the LIVETARGET Fleeing Shrimp. This standard in shrimp lures comes in two lengths and weights (2-3/4” and ¼ oz, or 3-1/2” and 3/8 oz) and eight ultra-realistic color patterns. And if you need to downsize weight, take the included extra body and rig it with a lighter Z-Man Trout Eye™ or longer shanked Redfish Eye™ jighead.


Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D Minnow
There’s no shortage of retailer peg-hooks draped with Yo-Zuri hardbody jerkbaits, and for good reason – they are deadly. The Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D Minnow, specifically, is a perennial saltwater fish catcher.

The lure’s patented and proprietary Internal 3D Prism Finish reflects all subsurface light, even in the murkiest water. The results of the dynamic flash will be evidenced by the fish chilling in your ice box. Accentuating the visual bursts, the Crystal 3D Minnow’s erratic side-to-side swimming action drives fish off the deep end.

The Crystal 3D Minnow attracts sonically as well with its internal rattle ball sound system. Saltwater-grade tin hooks, durable ABS resin body and stainless-steel split-rings complete the masterfully designed baitfish imitator.

Fishing one is simple as well. Cast and twitch, experimenting with pause times and forcefulness. Oftentimes, twitches mutate into hooksets, as inshore species regularly smash the bait while it’s stationary or just pulling away.Available in 14 unique patterns, there is a Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D Minnow to match your fishing situation, water clarity and targeted species.

Daiwa Salt Pro Minnow
Shallow does not necessarily mean fishing small. Inshore predators like redfish, snook, and seatrout eat big stuff, especially during the summer months when juvenile bait like mullet are developing into young adults.

In said situations, nothing begs to be bitten like Daiwa’s Salt Pro Minnow. Another effective hardbody jerkbait, the popular Salt Pro Minnow was engineered for versatility and casting great distances, which is a must in clear water. An internal weight-transfer system propels the lure amazing distances and cuts inshore winds to the quick. This, while heavy-duty saltwater hooks promote longevity and fight rust.Cosmetically, its realistic scale pattern and 3D eyes dare fish to prove it is not real. To that, the Salt Pro Minnow is available in a whopping 32 color patterns, catering to anything the ocean desires.The suggested 5-1/8” size dives to just three feet, making it fully functionable in most inshore situations. Twitch and pause, like any run-of-the-mill jerkbait, but expect improved results. Fish love to hate this thing.

Rapala X-Rap Salter
Rapala’s greater X-Rap® series is synonymous with success… the Suspending X-Rap® Saltwater, specifically, when saltwater species are involved. Categorized as a Slashbait® for its vigorous, darting action, the lure’s locomotion is unique to hardbody jerkbaits. And the fish notice.Visually speaking, the iconoclastic lure features prominent scales, a legit lateral line, internal holographic foil for optimum flash, textured translucent body and 3D holographic eyes. Aggregated, these traits present a realism that fish want to get to know better.Promoting tape-measure casts, the Suspending X-Rap Saltwater jerkbait houses a long-cast mechanism that flat-out works. VMC® Perma Steel® Hooks finalize the package.

And like all Rapala premium baits, every X-Rap Saltwater jerkbait is hand tuned and tank tested, so don’t be thrown off by any water droplet residue on the packaging. It means Rapala cares.Rapala’s X-Rap Saltwater is available in four sizes and a dozen surefire colors.If you’re looking for top-producing saltwater shrimp and hardbody jerkbaits, don’t be the kid in the candy store.

Take our advice and stock up the top 5… and be ready for a fight.


Loggerhead sea turtle nesting tracks
Georgia DNR 

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (May 3, 2020) – Nesting season for loggerhead sea turtles has started on schedule.

The annual cycle of these massive turtles returning to beaches in the Southeast to lay their eggs began in Georgia with a nest found Saturday morning on Little Cumberland Island. Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative members reported a second nest Sunday on Sea Island.

Georgia Sea Turtle Program Coordinator Mark Dodd said the first nests are “always around the first of May.” “It’s kind of like clockwork.”

This year’s first also has historical ties. While nesting has been monitored on all Georgia beaches since 1989, the network took root in 1964 when former University of Georgia professor Dr. Jim Richardson started the Little Cumberland Island Sea Turtle Project. That loggerhead monitoring effort is the oldest in North America and shares the status worldwide with a program started in South Africa the same year.

Little Cumberland Project Director Russell Regnery documented the nest on Little Cumberland Saturday. Hundreds more will follow on Georgia barrier islands, with nesting season for the state’s leading marine turtle and a protected species hitting full stride by June.

Predicting a total is anyone’s guess, according to Dodd, a senior wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. But one question is whether 2021 can top the 2,786 nests last year, or better yet, the 3,950 in 2019, the most since comprehensive monitoring began.

The state’s previous record was 3,289 nests in 2016. The total in 2019 also marked the first time the chunky-headed marine turtles had topped a Georgia recovery benchmark of 2,800 nests.

The loggerhead population has been increasing at approximately 4 percent annually since the early 1990s. However, a new population model developed by UGA and the U.S. Geological Survey using nesting and genetics data indicates the population will plateau at current levels for about the next 20 years, its progress hindered by low recruitment during the early 2000s, Dodd said. If current protections remain in place at least through that period, the model suggests loggerhead numbers would then start to increase again, possibly reaching levels not seen since the late 1950s.

Supporting that rebound is the goal of Georgia’s Sea Turtle Cooperative. The DNR-coordinated network of about 200 volunteers, researchers and agency employees patrols beaches daily during nesting season. Working under a federal permit, members mark, monitor and protect all loggerhead nests, plus those of other species that seldom nest in Georgia, such as green and Kemp’s ridley.

The effort not only eases predation and increases the number of young that hatch, the data collected is used to assess loggerhead populations, assess threats and inform management. Cooperators also help with beach management. The program has been in play on Georgia beaches for more than 30 years.

“The cooperative has done a tremendous amount of work,” and with a measurable impact, Dodd said. “We started out averaging about 800 nests a year and we’re now up to about 3,500.”

Like other marine turtles, loggerheads – named for their large heads – crawl ashore on barrier island beaches, dig a hole at the base of the dunes and lay their eggs, usually at night.

To prep for the season, Dodd and staff have been training interns, working with volunteers, partner agencies and organizations, and teaming with DNR’s Law Enforcement Division, all while navigating social distancing and other requirements involving the coronavirus pandemic. Game wardens enforce regulations including the use of turtle excluder devices, or TEDs, in commercial shrimping.

The process followed on Little Cumberland and Sea Island last weekend will be repeated hundreds of times this year. An egg from each nest – less than 1 percent of the average clutch size on the island – was collected for UGA genetic analysis documenting the number and relatedness of loggerheads nesting in Georgia. The nest was then covered with a screen to protect the eggs from predators.

DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section works to conserve sea turtles and other wildlife not legally fished for or hunted, as well as rare plants and natural habitats. The agency does this largely through public support from fundraisers, grants and contributions.

Key fundraisers include sales of the monarch butterfly license plates and sales and renewals of bald eagle plate and older designs, such as the ruby-throated hummingbird. These tags cost only $25 more than a standard plate to buy or renew. Up to $20 of that fee goes to help wildlife.


All marine turtles in Georgia are protected by state and federal law. To help conserve these species:

§  Minimize beachfront lighting during sea turtle nesting season. Turn off, shield or redirect lights.

§  When walking the beach at night, don’t use flashlights and flash photography. They can deter turtles from coming ashore to nest or cause them to abort nesting.

§  If you encounter a sea turtle on the beach, remain quiet, still and at a distance.

§  Leave turtle tracks undisturbed. Researchers use them to identify the species and mark nests for protection.

§  Properly dispose of your garbage. Turtles may mistake plastic bags, Styrofoam and trash floating in the water as food. After ingesting trash, it can kill them by clogging their intestines.

§  Protect beach vegetation: It stabilizes sand and the natural coastline.

§  When boating, stay alert and avoid turtles. Of the sea turtles found dead or hurt in Georgia last year, 26 percent suffered injuries consistent with being hit by a boat. Boaters who hit a sea turtle are urged to stand-by and immediately call DNR at 800-2-SAVE-ME (800-272-8363).

§  Also report any dead or injured sea turtles seen at 800-272-8363. (If the turtle is tagged, include the tag color and number in the report if possible.)

Sources: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia DNR


Anglers who hook or entangle a sea turtle should call DNR at 800-2-SAVE-ME (800-272-8363). Also:

§  Keep your hands away from the turtle’s mouth and flippers.

§  Safely land the turtle using a net or by walking it to shore. Do not lift the turtle by the hook or by pulling on the line.

§  Leave the hook in place; removing it can cause more damage. (Anglers are encouraged to use non-stainless, barbless hooks when possible.)

§  Keep the turtle out of direct sunlight and cover it with a damp towel.

If an angler cannot reach DNR, cut the line as short as possible and release the turtle.


§  Caretta caretta: Most common sea turtle on Georgia’s coast; found off coast year-round. Also one of the world’s largest turtles, topping 350 pounds and sporting a carapace up to 44 inches long. How long loggerheads live is not known.

§  Range: The Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea. Nests in the U.S. from Virginia to Texas.

§  Nesting: Females reach sexual maturity at 30-35 years. From about May through September, they crawl ashore at night, dig a hole in the face of dunes along barrier island beaches, and deposit and cover eggs.

§  Pilgrimage: Eggs hatch in 55-65 days. The young scramble for the water, beginning a journey that can take them from sargassum weed off Georgia’s shores to a current-powered loop that circles to the Azores and the eastern Atlantic Ocean, south to west Africa and back to the western Atlantic.

§  Eats: Fish eggs and small invertebrates when small. As adults, they eat mainly crabs and mollusks, but also forage items like jellyfish and dead fish.

§  Status: Federally listed as threatened since 1978. Georgia DNR reclassified loggerheads in the state from threatened to endangered in 2006.

§  Threats: Primarily mortality associated with commercial fishing activities, but also nest predation by raccoons and feral hogs, poaching, loss of habitat, boat strikes, and even ingestion of plastic litter mistaken as food.



Annual loggerhead nest totals since comprehensive surveys began in 1989.

1989 – 675
1990 – 1,031
1991 – 1,101
1992 – 1,048
1993 – 470
1994 – 1,360
1995 – 1,022
1996 – 1,096
1997 – 789
1998 – 1,055
1999 – 1,406
2000 – 1,060
2001 – 852
2002 – 1,028
2003 – 1,504
2004 – 358
2005 – 1,187
2006 – 1,389
2007 – 689
2008 – 1,649
2009 – 997
2010 – 1,761
2011 – 1,992
2012 – 2,241
2013 – 2,289
2014 – 1,201
2015 – 2,335
2016 – 3,289
2017 – 2,155
2018 – 1,735
2019 – 3,950
2020 – 2,786

Source: Georgia DNR

Do I Need A Boat To Catch Fish On the Gulf Coast?

No boat? No problem when you visit the Gulf Coast.
by Frank Sargeant
from The Fishing Wire

Many anglers who visit the endless sandy beaches between Dauphin Island, Alabama, and Panama City Beach, Florida, come without boats. Trailering a large boat is a hassle, and many anglers don’t want to put their flawless $50,000 bass boat and trailer into saltwater that can corrode metal parts. But this is not a problem in several locations, thanks to resort destinations that cater to anglers and boaters.

Not only are there literally hundreds of boats of all sizes for rent and for charter along the coast, there’s also very good—and free–wade-fishing or kayak fishing along much of this stretch, all the way from both sides of Dauphin Island to St. Andrews Bay at Panama City Beach.

I enjoyed some great action on blues, jacks, ladyfish, trout and reds both from rental pontoons and also while wade fishing on a recent visit to Florida’s Grand Lagoon, just inside Panama City Beach Pass, the manmade cut that leads into St. Andrews Bay. I’ve had similar results in previous visits to Dauphin Island and to Orange Beach.

As throughout much of the Gulf Coast, there are loads of quality accommodations here very close to the water—but one of the very few directly on the bay with docks right in front of the hotel is the upscale Sheraton Panama City Beach Golf and Spa Resort on Jan Cooley Drive. Check them out at   The Sheraton Panama City Beach is a great spot for anglers and boaters, with wadefishing on the premises, boat docks just across the walkway over the lagoon.

The hotel, rebuilt repeatedly after getting hammered by hurricanes, is now ideal for those who enjoy boating and fishing as part of their beach vacation. It’s directly on Grand Lagoon, with an extended walkway reaching out across grass flats and needle-rush marsh to the marina, and to some great wade fishing. There’s also a private beach on the lagoon here—a good spot for those who don’t like the waves and the crowds of the main beach along the Front Beach strip. (If the fish don’t bite—rare—you can always play golf or tennis or enjoy the miles of great walking paths.) Anglers also like “Flip-Flops”, an open-air bar and restaurant overlooking the lagoon, so close you can hear the mullet jump.  Flip Flop’s Bar and Restaurant in Panama City Beach is close enough to the lagoon to hear the mullet jump.

Alligator Point extends out from the corner where Grand Lagoon makes off to the west from St. Andrews Bay proper, and like many “elbows”, it’s a likely fishing spot. There’s grass here to several hundred yards offshore, all wadable at depths from 1 to 3 feet. For those not staying at the hotel, there’s a public access at the end of Jan Cooley Drive good for wading access or to launch a kayak. I caught trout and one big redfish throwing a Rapala Skitterwalk topwater at dawn off the point, while after the sun got high the trout and reds disappeared but several schools of 2 to 3 pound bluefish and lots of ladyfish and small jacks swarmed baits on the edge of the flats—a half-ounce Krockodile spoon caught all I wanted. This same action continues all along the north Gulf beaches until water temperature drops below about 67 degrees, which pushes the baitfish south.  Bluefish are a common catch all along the Gulf Coast so long as the baitfish are still present, which they typically are from April through early November. While wadefishing gets you to lots of fish, it’s also possible to rent kayaks and paddleboards at many locations along the coast, adding considerably to range as well as allowing you to fish deeper water if that’s where the fish are holding.  Standup paddleboards float in just inches of water, while allowing access to miles of great flats fishing all along the north Gulf Coast.

Fish the larger passes here and you get into other species. Deep water and lots of flow at Panama City, Destin, Pensacola, Perdido and the mouth of Mobile Bay means lots of bait and lots of big fish. Everything from 30-pound redfish to 5-foot-long king mackerel and 60-pound cobia prowl these passes, along with more big sharks than most of us want to deal with.

There are also nice mangrove snapper on the deep rocks, and an occasional keeper-sized gag grouper—put down a live sardine for them on 60-pound-tackle. If all this is not enough to provide your angling fix, you can also visit the sugar sand beaches that stretch some 160 miles. Holes right along the beach hold whiting and pompano ready to grab a shrimp tail, while outside the bar big reds and cobia cruise, along with tarpon in summer.

And of course all this is added to huge charter and party boat fleets at marine centers all along the coast. The big boats are ready to take you out for anything from red snapper and grouper to blackfin tuna and blue marlin.In short, there’s no need to bring a boat to the north Gulf Coast to enjoy the fishy bounty. 

For information on other accommodations, restaurants and area attractions in the Panama City Beach area, visit

For Pensacola Beach visit

For the Alabama coast, visit

Epic Fall Bites for Coastal Anglers

From New Jersey to the Texas Coast, St. Croix pros sound off on epic fall bites
from The Fishing Wire

Whether you mine the Northeast for stripers, tuna, blues, sea bass and blackfish or hit the southern coast for redfish, snook, sea trout and flounder, the next several weeks will see some wild action on the inshore scene. Are you ready? St. Croix’s top pros are, and we’ve asked them to share a bit about what they’re doing to capitalize on the best bites in their respective areas right now.

Northeast Coast
Captain Robbie Radlof is a renowned guide at Waterman Charters out of Barnegat Township, New Jersey. He’s one of the best in the game at consistently hunting down big tuna, as well as making a living putting his clients on striped bass, which he says has been about 90% of this fall’s fishery so far. Right now, he says the stripers are schooling up in Montauk and Connecticut and are just starting to pass through New Jersey.

“Our striper fishery has been incredible this year and it’s only going to get better here in the next few weeks,” says Radlof, who adds that new slot limits in New Jersey and New York are adding tremendous value to the recreational striper fishery in the Northeast. “We now have wads of 40”-50” fish coming back through Jersey waters. I’ve never seen this many jumbos.”Radlof says the bass are primarily feeding on adult bunker inshore.

“We’re throwing big spoons and metal-lipped plugs with the new 7’9”, extra-heavy power, moderate-fast action St. Croix Mojo Inshore rods (JIC79XHMF) on 65-lb. braid with 60-80 lb. leaders,” he says. “This is the exact rod St. Croix won the saltwater road category with at ICAST earlier this year, and it’s clear why; this is what these rods were designed for… casting large, 2-6-oz. moving baits to big, powerful fish. They’ve got a unique blend of extra-heavy power to control and subdue jumbo stripers and an ideal medium-fast tip for casting and absorbing those slashing strikes that happen with plugs and swimbaits. I’ve never used a rod this powerful that has remained so light in the hand and easy to fish.”

On days when stripers are keying in on sand eels farther offshore, Radlof switches to the new 7’11”, medium power, fast action (JIS711MF) and 7’11” medium-heavy power, fast-action (JIS711MHF) Mojo Inshore rods “These rods pair perfectly with the smaller epoxy jigs we’re using in the 1-1/4-oz. range paired with 5” paddletails, as well as the heavier Savage Gear Sand Eel lures, which have been really hot.”

Radlof says the New Jersey bluefin tuna fishery has been evolving for the better in recent years, again, thanks to tightened regulations implemented about ten years ago. “We’re seeing regular opportunities for 100- and 200-lb. fish that we didn’t have just a few years ago,” he says, but points out this year has been atypical. “We’re getting an impressive biomass of sand eels, which has really helped, but the water got warm this summer and a lot of our tuna just pushed north. We have some resident bluefins around right now, but they are fairly spread out and have been picked over pretty good. We had a great yellowfin bite in mid-August, and the bluefins should be coming back through soon, headed to North Carolina,” he adds.

“I’m hoping it won’t be too bitterly cold in December when they show back up!” When they do, Radlof says he’ll be targeting them with poppers and stickbaits.

Radlof drills down on some additional key features of St. Croix’s new Mojo Inshore rods. “The larger, more powerful rods in the series I’m using daily have new hybrid cork/EVA foam handles. The EVA portion in the middle of the handle sits right under your arm when you’re throwing those big metal lips and adds some real comfort to the equation. That’s also the same section of the handle that makes contact with a rod tube or rocket launcher when the rod are stowed, so it keeps the cork grips from getting worn and banged up. The soft non-marring rubber gimbles on the butts are a huge plus, too,” he says. “I’m often running 50-60 miles one way to find the big fish, and that soft gimble holds the rod and heavy reel securely in the rod holders.”

South Carolina & Georgia Coast
RedFin Charters captain, Justin Carter, operates out of the rich and diverse waters around Charleston, South Carolina.“We’re just past the mullet run and our bull redfish have moved offshore,” he reports. “But the shallow-water speckled trout bite on artificials is really picking up. Our water temps have dropped, trout have moved past the spawn and are transitioning into shallow wintering areas,” continues Carter, who says a couple key factors are contributing to the quality of the trout fishery right now.

“Waning daylight is prompting a lot of feeding. There’s a lot of shrimp in the creeks, and trout will continue to feed hard with temps mid-50s or higher, which could last into January,” he says.Carter is finding success on bigger trout with topwaters and suspending twitch baits, and well as Z-Man Trout Eye jigs paired with 4” DieZel MinnowZ. Depending on the size of his jig, he’s fishing 7’, light power (JIS70LF) and 7’6”, medium-light power, fast action (JIS76MLF) St. Croix Mojo Inshore spinning rods, and switches to the 7’6”, medium power (JIS76MF) Mojo Inshore when throwing spinnerbaits or topwaters.When the birds show him where they’re at, Carter is still targeting 35”-50” beast reds farther offshore with chuggers and 7”DieZel MinnowZ, but the smaller resident redfish are schooling up in the shallows to protect themselves from marauding porpoises, which no longer have access to as many mullet. “Along with the trout, we’ve got tremendous sight-fishing opportunities for slot reds and some up to 35” right know,” says Carter.

“It’s a really exciting time to be fishing right now.”

Cobia represent Carter’s ace-in-the-hole, bonus big fish at this time of year. “It’s interesting; we have some recent studies – which back up my observations over the past several years – that show our cobia aren’t just moving south and north in the spring and fall. They’re also moving east and west, and I tend to catch them in 90-120 feet this time of year,” explains Carter, who says 30-40-lb. fish aren’t unusual. “We see them regularly showing up in the chum slick while drifting on the bottom for kings and little tunny.” Carter keeps two Mojo Inshore rods rigged and ready for when Cobia appear: one rigged with a freelined livie on a 5/0 circle hook, and another set up with a white, 10” Z-Man HeroZ jerk bait rigged on a ChinlockZ hook.

“That HeroZ is outstanding cobia bait,” he says. “They’ll hardly ever turn it down as long as there’s enough distance between the fish and the boat. The Mojo Inshore 7’11”, medium-heavy (JIS711MHF) rod is ideal for both of these presentations.”

Florida Keys
“The month of November can be full of great opportunities in the lower keys,” says owner of Push It Good Inshore Charters, Scott Brown. “Resident tarpon, snook and jacks are gorging on schools of bait and some of the bigger bonefish and permit are still cruising the flats. As long as water temps don’t drop below 75 degrees and winds stay relatively moderate, you can find good numbers of all of them,” he says.Brown touts sight fishing the flats this time of year when conditions are favorable. “I like to pair a 3000 series spinning reel with a St. Croix 7’, medium-light power, new Legend Xtreme Inshore spinning rod (XSS70MLF) for presenting ¼-oz to 3/16-oz jigs to cruising bonefish and redfish.”The lower keys flats can be tough at times depending on the weather and conditions, which warrants a lightweight, responsive and super sensitive rod like Legend Xtreme Inshore.

“The ability for quick, accurate and subtle presentations is paramount when fishing for pressured bonefish. And when the wind starts blowing and visibility is reduced, that’s when Legend Xtreme’s unmatched sensitivity really comes into play; you may not be able to watch it happen, but you know when a fish has picked up the jig.”For cruising permit, Captain Scott likes freelining a live crab. “A 7’6” medium-power rod paired with a 4000 series spinning reel is the ticket,” offers Brown, who prefers to fish with the new Legend Xtreme Inshore version (XSS76MF), but keeps the incredibly capable new Triumph Inshore version (TIS76MF) rigged and handy for his clients.

“These new, handcrafted Triumph Inshore rods are simply amazing, and – in my opinion – offer an unbeatable combination of performance and value.”A big part of the lower keys’ appeal is that there’s always a bite to be had, even when conditions get nasty. “When the north winds kick up and water temps drop, I like to switch it up to live baiting for tarpon, snook and snappers. This time of year, the tarpon and snook are between 10-20lbs and larger snapper move inshore,” says Brown, who prefers a rod that’s not too heavy, but has adequate back bone to set the hook and keep fish out of the mangroves.

“The 7’ medium-heavy Triumph Inshore rods are ideal when fishing medium-sized mullet and large pilchards on 30-40-lb. fluorocarbon,” he says. “You have that fast tip necessary to accurately pitch baits close to cover, plus the power required to pull the fish away from trouble.” When the bite is really on and the tarpon are cruising , Brown switches from livies to ¼-oz. soft swim baits and bucktail jigs. His preferred rod in these cases is the 7’, medium-power Legend Xtreme Inshore spinning rod (XSS70MF).

Texas Gulf CoastFlorida-born Guillermo Gonzalez grew up chasing snook and tarpon in the Biscayne Bay backcountry south of Miami. A transplant to Texas, the 2017 Kayak Angler’s Tournament Series (KATS) Angler of the Year travels extensively to fish and compete, but most often finds himself chasing redfish and trout along the Texas coast.“The majority of our coast is known for sight fishing to shallow redfish, but the marshes are really coming alive right now,” says Gonzalez, who believes the increased activity in most areas is primarily shrimp-related. “There’s definitely more shrimp in right now, and you can see them popping as redfish move through an area.”Given the natural smorgasbord, one would guess that live shrimp and shrimp imitations are the bait of choice right now.

“Shrimp imitations are always going to work,” Gonzalez confirms. “But redfish aren’t the pickiest fish in the world; in my experience, if a red is going to eat, it will eat about anything in your tackle box.” But Gonzalez does choose certain lures that have some well-defined characteristics. When sight-fishing shallow redfish in the fall, he gravitates towards smaller, softer baits that land quietly, and are darker in color. “I’m fishing a lot of belly-weighted root beer-colored flukes, as well as smaller, darker paddletails when sight fishing,” he specifies. “Whatever you choose needs to land softly and small tends to win… nothing clunky.”

For presenting such baits, Gonzalez is bullish on St. Croix’s all-new Triumph Inshore series of rods. “These rods combine incredible St. Croix performance with an almost-unbelievable price, and the entire series has been designed to support the specific regional techniques coastal anglers employ around the country,” he says.“Wade fishing around oysteries, potholes and drains in the marsh is hugely popular along the Texas coast, and many Triumph Inshore models have been designed with this in mind. These anglers are doing a lot of casting, so the rods are lightweight and crisp with great ergonomics,” says Gonzalez, who adds that often means split grips and shorter handles.

“They are also using a lot of moving baits, so rods need to be soft enough to keep fish pinned.”Gonzalez prefers the 6’8” and 7’ medium-power, moderate-fast action Triumph Inshore models for his style of fishing. “The tips on these rods are perfect,” he says. “They’re soft enough to make the short, accurate pitches necessary to have success with shallow redfish in the marsh, with the power and back bone required to tame them. He also adds that the 7’ medium-light power, moderate action casting rod (TRIC70MLM) has a sweet, parabolic action that coastal Texas trout anglers are flocking to.St. Croix pro and lifelong inshore angler, Joseph Sanderson is a former collegiate FLW and BASS competitor and current KBF tournament kayak angler. He dives deeper on the new, trout-centric TRIC70MLM.

“As Guillermo already mentioned, wade-fishing is really popular down here. if I go wading for trout, I’m really working; popping and reeling in slack and then repeating. A heavy, stiff rod will wear you out. This rod is comfortable to fish all day with,” he says, “When wading deep, you can’t use your arm; you have to use your wrist. The medium-light rod and shorter handle of the TRIC70MLM really helps. And since speckled trout have really soft mouths, the moderate action of this rod keeps them hooked up.”

Sanderson recently spent a day sight-fishing for reds from a skiff and wading with the 6’8” and 7’ medium power, moderate-fast action Triumph Inshore casting rods (TRIC68MMF and TRIC70MMF). “We had calm conditions and clear water, so we were making a lot of medium-distance casts in the 50-60-foot range. Accuracy mattered and both rods delivered with 1/16-oz. jigs and small paddletails,” he says, noting that rods also had plenty of power to subdue the 20”-28” slot fish they were catching. “I’m not very conventional about matching rods to big fish,” says Sanderson. “I can assure you these medium-power rods will easily handle 30”-35” reds.”Sanderson drills down on Triumph Inshore’s varied handle options. “I preferred the 7’ version a bit better with the longer, full cork handle because I prefer to cast with two hands, but found the shorter-handled 6’8” split-grip an ideal option for wading. It’s rare to find a casting rod that performs with the lightweight jigs and baits I use so much of the time, and both of these rods excelled.”Sanderson and Gonzalez were impressed with the new Triumph Inshore rods from the start. “When I unpackaged these rods, the first thing I noticed was the surprisingly high quality of the cork and their beautiful finish,” Sanderson says.

“The second was their extreme light weight. These are without a doubt the finest inshore rods in their price range I have ever held.” Gonzalez agrees, adding, “the finish, components, balance and cosmetics of these rods are flawless. I never expected to see that in a rod retailing for $130.”

Catch Up with Radlof, Carter and Sanderson Live
Want to hear even more about what’s happening on the inshore scene right now or ask questions of your own? Join St. Croix pros Joseph Sanderson, Justin Carter and Rob Radlof on Facebook Live @stcroixrods, Tuesday, November 24 at 7:00PM Central.

#CROIXGEARLike the rods? You’ll love our lifestyle apparel. Save 20% off retail on select performance tees, November 16th through the 31st. 
Shop now! 

With Piers Closed, Angler Takes to Alabama’s Beautiful Beaches

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

from The Fishing Wire

With a nickname like Pier Pounder, David Thornton of Mobile has seen his favorite pastime disappear with 2020’s double whammy of hurricanes. Hurricane Sally took the Gulf State Park Pier out of commission, and Hurricane Zeta destroyed Cedar Point Pier in Mobile County.

“I guess you can call me the Pier-less Pounder because the only pier open in the Mobile area is the Fairhope Pier, and it’s closed at night because they don’t have any lights,” Thornton said.

However, Thornton has a major backup plan, thanks to Alabama’s beautiful beaches and surf teeming with a variety of fish species.

Thornton said he’s been hooked on fishing in the surf since he was 12, and a trip to Gulf State Park Pier with his buddy, Tom Allenbach, sealed his loved for pier fishing.

“Tom was fishing a live alewife under a float,” Thornton said of the trip to Gulf State Park Pier. “He told me to hold his rod while he caught more bait. I asked him how I would know when I got a bite. He said, ‘You’ll know.’

About that time, I felt a tug and thought I was hung on somebody else’s line. Then the fish took off, stripping drag. It was about a 10 ½-pound king, and that was when I really got hooked on pier fishing.”

But for now, fishing from shore is where Thornton will be until a portion of Gulf State Park Pier is reopened sometime late this winter.

Before Thornton decides where to pursue fish in the surf, he gathers information about weather, water, wind and tide conditions.

“Know what the weather is going to be like with the marine forecast,” he said. “It’s not that I look for any certain conditions; it’s just that I want to know what to expect and adjust. I look at the tide tables. Then I’ll decide where I’m going and what I’m going to fish for based on the conditions.

“Ideal conditions would be 10-15 mph winds either onshore or sideshore with waves 1 to 3 feet. For shore fishing, it’s really better with a little chop on the water. I think it stimulates the fish to bite more readily. Also, you have current flow. If there is a current working over the sandbar, you want to pay special attention to the tide, especially if it’s close to a pass. If it’s too rough or too calm or with very little tidal movement, the fish don’t cooperate as well. If I’m going to fish a neap tide, I’m going to fish close to the pass.

”When Alabama’s tides come off a neap cycle, the tide swings will sometimes reach more than 2 feet from low tide to high tide. That’s when Thornton likes to be fishing the open beaches.

“That tide movement stimulates the bite,” he said. “When I go, I’m looking for a longshore sandbar. The longshore sandbar is usually 100 to 150 yards off the beach. But there are places where the longshore sandbar swings in closer to the shore. The best places are where the sandbar is within casting range. That creates a pinch point where the fish are going to be moving from one trough to the next. When the bar is closer, you can use lighter tackle and target a variety of fish.

“I’d much rather catch a big fish on light tackle and take a long time than catch a small fish on heavy tackle.”

Thornton casts to the inside edge of the sandbar to start the day and adjusts his casts according to the bite.

“The fish tend to feed along the edges,” he said. “They use the sandbars for protection from predatory fish. The area from the shore out to the first bar is where most of the fish live. That old adage is that 90 percent of the fish live in 10 percent of the water. It’s the same in the surf.

”Speaking of light tackle, Thornton truly goes as light as possible. Where some folks show up on the beaches with long rods with 20- to 30-pound line, Thornton fishes with line in a range from 4-pound-test to 15-pound-test. He uses his 10- to -12-foot rods with the 15-pound line for the long casts. He takes his 7-foot rods and light line for fishing closer to the shore. However, anything can bite any of his rigs.

“I’ve hooked 20-pound black drum within 10 feet of the shore, and I’ve caught whiting and pompano out by the sandbar,” he said. “The mistake I see most people make is they’ll cast out as far as they can, pop the rod in a rod holder, plop down in a chair and wait for a fish to bite. If they don’t catch anything, they say the fish weren’t biting that day. Odds are, they overcast the fish. With light tackle, I feel like I have just as much fun catching 14- to 16-inch whiting and an occasional pompano as somebody heaving this heavy tackle and waiting hours between bites.”

Thornton uses No. 4 Kahle hooks and a variety of sinkers from pyramid to no-roll egg-shaped. If he wants the bait to remain stationary, he sticks with the pyramids. If he doesn’t mind the bait moving a little, he’ll use the flattened egg sinkers or coin sinkers.

“If I’ve got a side wind that is creating current, I can also use that slow-moving bait to cover more ground,” he said. “That way, I’m not just throwing darts at the fish. If your bait is moving too fast, you may have to go to a pyramid.”

Thornton suggests forgoing the ready-made pompano rigs and sticking with lighter line.

“If you’re targeting one- to two-pound whiting and one- to three-pound pompano, even 20-pound line is overkill,” he said. “Light line allows the fish to give account of themselves. They’re really feisty for their size. When you match the tackle with the fish, you’re going to have a lot more fun, and I really think you get more bites. It seems like every time I step down in tackle size, the number of bites I get practically doubles. Whiting and pompano can be particularly line-shy at times.”

Thornton considers the Florida pompano as his target species, but he is happy as can be with what he calls the “byproduct” of pompano fishing, which is whiting, a silvery species with a black patch at the top of its tail. Known as Gulf kingfish elsewhere, whiting don’t get much larger than two pounds but are delicious table fare. Thornton said

Southern kingfish, known locally as ground mullet, are common in the surf at Dauphin Island.“Whiting, by far, is the most prevalent fish in the surf,” he said. “But you never really know what you’re going to catch.”

As far as bait, Thornton uses fresh dead shrimp with the heads and tails pinched off when he has run out of ghost shrimp, a crustacean that lives in the surf that is caught using a suction pump commonly called a slurp gun to extract the creatures from the sand. On our outing last week, the fish definitely showed a preference for ghost shrimp. Thornton also uses a product called Fish Bites, a product with different scents infused into the material.

Thornton said shore anglers will be able to catch whiting and a few pompano throughout the winter. When the water gets a little colder, sheepshead will show up around all the jetties. The pompano limit in Alabama is three fish with a minimum total length of 12 inches. The limits on sheepshead are 10 per person with a 12-inch fork length minimum. Whiting have no size or creel limit.

The best time all year to fish the surf is in the spring, according to Thornton, who keeps readers apprised of coastal fishing conditions with columns in Great Days Outdoors and the Mullet Wrapper.“Late March through April and possibly early May is the time to fish the beach, especially for pompano,” he said.

“With the lockdown this past spring, we didn’t get to fish for pompano until May. The Gulf State Park Pier was still open during that time, and the pompano catches were astounding.

”Thornton is definitely going to celebrate when the Gulf State Park Pier reopens a portion of the pier about 40 feet past the middle section with the restrooms.

“I’ll be ecstatic,” he said. “The cruelest irony of all was the pier had scheduled a grand reopening the day that Sally smashed it. I was supposed to give a little talk that day, and I was going to reminisce about walking out on the new pier after many people had been waiting five years for the pier to be rebuilt after Ivan. It took my breath away. I remember on the old pier, we would often say, ‘If it was just 100 yards longer.’

Then they built it 200 yards longer. The fishing was just outstanding.

“When I walked out on the pier before Sally I couldn’t help but think about all those people who helped me become a better fishermen, people like Harley Rogers and so many others. For most of the people who are regulars on the pier, they have the attitude of ‘pay it forward.’ When you see somebody struggling, you try to help them with their tackle or bait. Then you see their whole attitude change. You don’t see that everywhere. That’s one of the things that makes Gulf State Park Pier special.”

Northeast Striped Bass Study

By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.
The Fisherman
from The Fishing Wire
Chuck Many nets a good fish for Dave Glassberg during the spring run off the Jersey Shore during the 2020 Northeast Striped Bass Study.

And now there are four!

“If one’s an anomaly, and two’s a coincidence, will three or more show a pattern?”That was the lead sentence in our first published piece of this year (Born To Run: Hudson River To Canyon Striper) on the status of our 2019 Northeast Striped Bass Study from our January edition. 

By now everyone along the Striper Coast is aware of the results; two post-spawn striped bass caught by our research team at The Fisherman, Gray FishTag Research and Navionics in May of 2019, tagged with high-tech MiniPSAT devices to track migration habits during a five-month stretch, ultimately showing returns from the offshore canyons including the Hudson, Block and Veatch.Two $5,000 “pop-off” satellite tags which incorporate light-based geolocation for tracking, time-at-depth histograms for measuring diving behavior, and a profile of depth and temperature, showing two very distinct paths in waters where we typically wouldn’t expect striped bass to swim.

There’s been some skepticism of course with some questing whether a big white shark gobbled up these stripers before heading east with a belly full of bass. However, the data stored inside the Wildlife Computers MiniPSAT devices – which amazingly were physically recovered by beachcombers in Massachusetts and New Jersey – shows both tagged fish were alive and swimming along the offshore grounds when the tags detached.We had grand plans in 2020, and with financial support from Navionics, Tsunami Tackle, AFW/HiSeas, Southernmost Apparel and the Recreational Fishing Alliance – on top of the thousands in individual donations from The Fisherman readers, regional advertisers, and local fishing clubs – the Northeast Striped Bass Study was poised to deploy up to a half-dozen MiniPSAT devices this past spring. 

“The plan was to have multiple boats ready to go at one time, with a full Gray FishTag Research team in New York again during the week of May 18,” said Mike Caruso, publisher of The Fisherman and an advisor for Gray FishTag Research, adding “It was going to be even more groundbreaking than in 2019.

”Due to travel restrictions and the shutdown of Wildlife Computers in Washington State where the devices are built, we missed the height of the post-spawn Hudson River bite by roughly two weeks.  But thanks to a determined crew at Gray FishTag Research in Florida and a little improvisation, we hit the Jersey Shore spring run off Sandy Hook with a pair of tags, one deployed Thursday, May 28 and another for the following Wednesday, June 3 while fishing with study supporters David Glassberg and Chuck Many aboard Chuck’s boat, Tyman.  The pandemic-related audible paid off with a pair of 46-inch plus stripers, appropriately named Cora and Rona.Tag Return #1With both a MiniPSAT device and a Gray FishTag Research “streamer” tag, a 46-1/2-inch striped bass called Rona is released back in the waters off Sandy Hook for the start of her tracking adventure.So the $10,000 question we’ve all been waiting to answer with baited breath; where did Cora and Rona eventually get to, and did they follow a similar offshore path to what Freedom and Liberty did during the 2019 study? 

Once again – just as in 2019 – our first two tag returns of 2020 reveal two coastal stripers taking a rather incredible journey into depths that few would’ve ever expected from striped bass.

On August 1, 2020, the Argos satellite first began to receive information from Cora’s tag in roughly 650 feet of water some 30 miles offshore of Gloucester, MA in an area southeast of Jeffreys Ledge along the Murray Basin.  According to the information in the MiniPSAT device since uploaded to the satellites, Cora had spent the previous two weeks heading in an easterly direction toward Stellwagen Bank, traveling approximately 85 miles in 14 days from an offshore area home to the Davis and Rodgers basins in the Gulf of Maine. 

That big striper was along the west side of George’s Bank for the July Fourth weekend, following a bit of meandering above Hydrographer Canyon.As unbelievable as it may be for some us to believe that final month of travel, the route to actually get to George’s Bank was even more shocking. 

Cora, a 45-3/4-inch striper tagged on June 3, 2020 off Sandy Hook during the spring run, seemingly took a southeast route soon after her release, following a similar path to overseas freighters coming in and out of New York Harbor using the Hudson Canyon to Ambrose Channel deepwater lanes. 

By June 10, MiniPSAT data shows Cora down past the Chicken Canyon and not far from the Texas Tower, where she would eventually begin tracking northeast towards Nantucket Shoals over a 14-day period before turning north in between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket by June 25.For about three weeks, Cora was outside of 3 miles and essentially unavailable to fishing pressure, and her return inshore in late June didn’t last very long either. 

During the final days of June Cora had cruised back through Nantucket Shoals before running that final offshore gauntlet in July.  Anglers along the south shore of Long Island never got a shot at this 35-pounder. We don’t know where she was in the days leading up to her tagging on June 3, nor do we know where she is now, but we have a pretty solid idea about where she was for 53 days this summer, and it wasn’t near the 3-mile-line along the south shore of Long Island.While Cora was the second big striper tagged for the 2020 Northeast Striped Bass Study – sister Rona being first on May 28 in the same stretch of water 2-1/2 miles east of Sandy Hook – her tag was the first to prematurely pop off. 

According to Bill Dobbelaer, president of Gray FishTag Research, there are any number of reasons why these highly specialized tags may come free.

“That fish could’ve gone under a piece of wood and it got hung up and tore loose…the answer is there are endless opportunities for that tag to come off,” Dobbelaer said, adding “it’s more of a miracle that it stays on, and the amount of information that we’ve already gotten from these fish is amazing. 

Dobbelaer and the Gray FishTag Research team have been involved in countless deployments around the globe with billfish where tags sometimes pop free within days of the initial capture.“It sucks when it comes off two days after we let them go, which happens,” he said.Tag Return #2And then there was Rona.  The first of three hefty stripers tagged in 2020 – Independence coming over the July Fourth weekend off Montauk – Rona was also tagged aboard Chuck Many’s Tyman on May 28, and her tag would begin relaying information from roughly 2 miles outside Moriches Inlet off Long Island on August 21.

When you look at the chart images of the travels taken by each of these fish, the first thing to understand is that the detailed tracking is not as exact as running on your own onboard GPS.  There are quite literally millions of data points collected inside of these MiniPSAT devices bobbing along the Atlantic Ocean somewhere after coming undone from their host.  As the Argos satellite passes overhead, the tag transmits its data where it is ultimately gathered by researchers at Gray. 

The data is then analyzed and input into charts to provide a general idea of migratory paths.

“We must always remember that fish in the ocean or wild never swim in a straight line,” said Dobbelaer, explaining “graphs created are averages based upon light sensors, temperature, and depth information.”  The graphs are reviewed by the folks at Wildlife Computers in Redmond, WA and the Northeast Striped Bass Study team; at that point, the estimated path of the fish is broken down using the Navionics Boating App with my own Capt. Segull’s charts scattered across the office floor.  Essentially, trying to pinpoint a fish’s precise path is like plotting a navigational course.The first striper deployed with a MiniPSAT device in 2020, Rona shows a rather incredible migratory journey between May 28 and August 15.

“They typically transmit for 10 days until the battery dies,” said Roxanne Willmer from Gray FishTag Research explaining how anywhere from 17,000 to 20,000 transmission attempts from the MiniPSAT devices to the overhead satellites once they’ve detached from the fish and floated to the surface. 

In 2019, both tagging devices were returned after being found on beaches along the Striper Coast, which is what researchers hope happens in 2020 as well. 

“If we do find them on a beach in three months then we can plug them in, which doesn’t require the battery, and get all of the data, maybe a more defined tracking,” Willmer said.

Heading back to the nautical charts with Navionics App in hand, we set to plotting Rona’s course from date of deployment off the Jersey Shore until the tag began to transmit 85 days later.  As difficult as it was for any one of us to process – and as hard as it might be for readers to believe – that big fish also traveled southeast along the Hudson Shelf Valley after being tagged, swimming approximately 100 nautical miles to the tip of the Hudson Canyon over the course of just 4 days.

“Likelihood” is a common word used in science; based on the best available science, there’s always a probability or chance of something occurring or not occurring in nature, especially when inserting man into the equation.  And from the data stored in that MiniPSAT device attached by fishermen into Rona at the beginning of the June, the tracking data showed the likelihood that she was finally on her way towards Moriches Inlet later that month after swimming around the edge of the Hudson and Toms. 

It would appear that Rona did swim back and forth across the line off Long Island at some point, but data fed to the Argos satellite shows a lot of ground covered over the span of a few weeks before making her northeastern-most stop along Nantucket Shoals by June 25, at roughly the same time as Cora.While Cora was the second fish “sat” tagged on June 3, hers was the first MiniPSAT to “ping” the Argos satellite on August 1 after coming undone prematurely on July 25.And similar to Cora which traversed darn close to the Texas Tower, data shows Rona making a quick run southwest of the Hudson tip in the area around the Triple Wrecks where yellowfin action was completely off the charts in 2020 with pelagics gorging on sand eels and keeping rods bent through early fall. 

On the move again in a northerly direction, Rona then covers a lot of ground south of Shinnecock at offshore areas during the summer as well, not far from where the Coimbra and Ranger wreck sites were ripe with life in 2020, and at roughly the same time.

“What is surprising is the magnitude of the apparent movements of these fish into offshore waters,” said John A. Tiedemann, Assistant Dean in the School of Science at Monmouth University and a longtime striped bass researcher and surfcaster. 

Tiedemann said he’s gone through 50 years of scientific research without finding any real evidence of such a long range offshore migration; he also noted how there’s never been a satellite tagging effort like this either.“In terms of their range offshore, the striped bass is typically characterized as a nearshore coastal fish and very few life history accounts provide evidence of movements onto the outer continental shelf region,” said Tiedemman, adding “Further analysis of environmental data associated with the movements of these fish may shed light on whether they are moving offshore in response to water temperature, food availability, or simple wanderlust.”

Connect The DotsWhere Cora and perhaps a few of her compatriots continued east/northeast, Rona’s satellite tracking shows her cruising back towards Montauk, maintaining an offshore route and crisscrossing her earlier travels until the tag was released somewhere outside of Moriches.  Whether she’s still swimming today or was brought to market is anyone’s guess. 

But as with all of the striped bass fit with MiniPSAT devices, there’s also a green streamer tag affixed to every fish to hopefully gather data on the final stats of each striper tagged.  That’s all part of an even bigger effort to get more of the public involved on this collaborative work.While a global pandemic impacted scheduling of the 2020 Northeast Striped Bass Study, the first batch of tagging gear arrived just in time for the Memorial Day weekend.“It is our team’s mission in our tagging work to always keep the data collected as open access to all,” Dobbelaer said of the team’s research, adding

“We will only conclude on the tagged specimen that we are studying, assume nothing of other fish movements or patterns, and continue to look for ways to evolve our own model.”One of those ways is through the use of the green spaghetti tags that have been distributed this season to handful of local charter captains, and which hopefully can be integrated into even more widespread use by anglers in the future science of striped bass. 

Dobbelaer said that the Gray FishTag Research goal is to expand on their tagging model to gather data from thousands of tagged stripers from the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, and hopefully using telemetry tagging with a robust spaghetti tag effort to not only track mortality and migration, but to better understand this offshore anomaly.“It is shocking in a short period of time the speed and distance in which these fish traveled.  This information is so contrary to what we all have been told,” Dobbelaer said throwing in yet another $10,000 question. 

“So, what do we do with this astounding information and where do we go from here?”Tiedemman said that although individual striped bass exhibit variable rates of transit, it’s been well established they can move considerable distances in short periods of time. 

“For example, a fish we acoustically tagged on June 7, 2019 in Sandy Hook Bay was detected off Montauk less than a month later on July 3,” he said, adding “a study published in 2014 documented a striper moving from Delaware Bay to coastal waters off Massachusetts in just 9 days.”

Although the number of fish tagged in Northeast Striped Bass Study is still small and thus far only conducted with spring deployments, Tiedemman said it appears to be providing new information on spring and summer movements of larger bass in the region, adding “As the number of satellite tags deployed increases the data yielded by this effort will become more complete and robust.”

Again, are we seeing a pattern?  Probably too soon to tell, which is why the Northeast Striped Bass Study will continue with support from the fishing community.  And on July 3, our team deployed a third MiniPSAT device for 2020 in a 46-inch striper named Independence somewhere between the Porgy Hump and Pollock Rip off Montauk.Furthermore, our team is hoping to be back in action in October for yet another expedition somewhere off Gloucester, MA with Wicked Tuna skipper Dave Marciano in hopes of finding another jumbo to perhaps connect a few more of the striper dots. 

As of this writing, we again wait with baited breath.


Alabama Anglers Get More Snapper Fishing Opportunities to Meet Quota

Redfish Catch

Anglers have yet to reach this year’s quota, and next year promises even greater opportunities thanks to new stock assessments indicating far more red snapper than previously believed.By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
from The Fishing Wire

If the recent blustery weather caused anglers to forgo a red snapper trip during the weekend extensions, don’t fret. Scott Bannon, Director of Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD), assures that private recreational anglers will have the opportunity to harvest the remaining quota.

The original plan was for a three-day extension from October 10-12, but Hurricane Delta foiled that plan. With snapper remaining in the quota, Alabama Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship and Bannon amended the extension to include Saturdays and Sundays until the quota is projected to be met.

“Remember, we are fishing to the pounds available in the annual quota, not to the dates,” Bannon said. “We expected a relatively low turnout for that three-day weekend. The only day with decent weather was Monday. We decided to leave that weekend open if anybody had the opportunity to go.

”What MRD officials discovered through Snapper Check was that a few brave anglers decided to venture out in the rough seas. Bannon said there were Snapper Check reports on Sunday and Monday of the Hurricane Delta weekend.

“That was not the weather I would have fished in,” Bannon said.

“Although the weather was better Monday, some people in smaller boats went out and turned around. They didn’t feel safe or comfortable. I think that was a wise decision, but they will get opportunities later.

“Looking at the public access boat ramps, there were a few trailers, but they were not full. I think there are some Hurricane Sally residual effects. People are still trying to clean up from the impacts, whether it’s their homes, docks or boats. Some marinas are not capable of putting boats in the water. Some of the dry storage facilities are damaged. Wet slips are not available. The two hurricanes are playing a factor in the reduced effort. I think it will be a while before the Gulf Coast is back up to full fishing force.”Bannon said the best way to manage the season was to leave it open on weekends until the quota is met.“This time of year, we will continue to have challenges with the weather,” he said. “People will have multiple conflicts with their schedules based on kids being in school and hunting seasons. We know the weekend effort won’t be like summertime weekends. We will keep up with the harvest through Snapper Check and post it on our webpage (

“We will try to give people as much notice as we can about when the quota is anticipated to be met. But I think it will take several weekends now.”As with any hurricane makes landfall along the Alabama coast, the storm can cause artificial reefs to be displaced, which was the case with Sally.

“We are already aware that some lighter-weight material, like the chicken transport devices, were moved,” Bannon said. “Some of the state’s nearshore reefs have been moved. But they are relatively close to where they were deployed. The Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) has identified some spots that have moved. We’re doing some surveys in our nearshore reef zones to determine the impact, and we’ll do some checks of offshore reefs later.

“Pyramids and larger items that have been there for a while and are planted in the bottom, they’re not going to move. Some items have turned over, but that’s fine. They still provide structure. We don’t think it will negatively impact the fish. I’ve also seen some social media posts where people have been looking for spots and located them nearby.”More good news for red snapper anglers came recently when preliminary results from the Great Red Snapper Count were presented to the U.S. Congress. Alabama Senator Richard Shelby was among the legislators who pushed a $10 million appropriation through Congress to fund the research.“I have not seen the full report, but the estimate from the Great Red Snapper Count is that the snapper population is about three times larger than what was previously thought,” Bannon said.

“One of the interesting portions of the report is the number of red snapper that are not on natural or artificial reefs. The number of snapper that are out on the flat areas, so to speak, are much higher than previously thought. Those fish are not accessed by anglers, so those fish will continue to be there based on the current fishing methods.”Bannon said the Great Red Snapper Count information will be used by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to create an interim stock assessment for red snapper. The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University was the lead for the Great Red Snapper Count. The work off the coast of Alabama was led by Dr. Sean Powers of the University of South Alabama.

“We’re anticipating hearing about the interim assessment in the near future, and that will impact the 2021 season for all sectors – commercial, for-hire and private anglers,” he said. “But this will not mean a three-time increase in the quota. The data from the red snapper count isn’t the only factor that goes into an interim analysis. It’s an important factor but only one source of data that goes into the analysis.

“However, this is excellent news. It is something we had anticipated. We expected the method used would reveal there were more snapper in the Gulf. It was a very important study, and Senator Shelby’s office was instrumental in providing funding for that.”Bannon said the results of the Great Red Snapper Count may relate to a number of other fish species in the Gulf as well.

“What we learned from this is whether we need to change some of the analysis methods for all species – the way we conduct stock assessments,” he said. “Do we need to continue to adjust our assessments closer to this model to ensure we’re getting accurate stock assessments.”

Bannon said the research that MRD and The University of South Alabama conducts in Alabama’s unparalleled artificial reef zones, which cover more than 1,000 square miles in the Gulf, was the genesis of the methods used in the Great Red Snapper Count.

“Because of the research done in our reef zones, we have said for the last eight years hat we had a very good understanding of the abundance of fish off of Alabama,” he said. “Now that we have that information from across the Gulf, it is good to know that the snapper stock is in better condition than some people anticipated. It’s a very positive outcome for red snapper anglers.”

Bannon said private recreational anglers can pick the days best for them to take advantage of the red snapper weekend extensions.“We’re fishing to the quota,” he said. “If it’s not comfortable or safe to go, don’t go. The fish are still in the bank, so to speak. We will keep Saturdays and Sundays open until we anticipate the quota being met, and that could be as soon as the end of this next weekend.”