Fishing the Orange Beach, Ala., area around the oil rigs last weekend took me away from grouper digging and king fishing but it was worth the trip.
We were fishing on the 50-foot Hatteras Marlin Hunter with Sid Rice and Larry Jiesy from Illinois and Bob Fedor from Madeira Beach. The plan was to fish the boat back from Mobile after Hurricane Ivan. The red snapper fishery off our coast has been improving but 7 miles offshore Orange Beach it was awesome. In less than two hours we boated more than 35 red snapper.
After fueling up in Orange Beach we spent most of the night jigging with diamond jigs around the oil rigs. Yellowfin tuna and blackfin tuna were so abundant that we called it a night after catching 30 and started trolling for home. The biggest challenge with the tuna fishing was the sharks. They seemed to think every tuna we hooked was a snack for them. Moving farther from the rigs continued to produce tuna with fewer sharks.
On the way home we decided to do some snapper fishing, then try fishing the oil rigs. We were hoping to get into some wahoo and dolphin. It wasn't until we were due east of John's Pass in 700 feet that we started to get some action. We hooked a white marlin at about 1 p.m. and watched it break the water a half-dozen times before shaking free. About 30 minutes later we hooked another white on a blue and white islander with a ballyhoo. The white put up a great fight and stripped out 500 yards of 50-pound line. Thirty minutes later we got it to the boat and released it. As the sun was setting we were about 70 miles from John's Pass and got a blackfin tuna to top off our trip.
Kingfish and grouper fishing is excellent right off our coast and will continue to get better into December. Good areas to target are the Clearwater hard bottom, the Betty Rose, 10-fathom wreck and the Egmont channel markers. Most passes and reefs are holding good schools of bait.
Larry "Huffy" Hoffman charters out of John's Pass, Treasure Island. Call 727 709-9396 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org