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Many species plentiful in Gulf

The biggest decision that has to be made by anglers venturing into the Gulf of Mexico is which species to target.

By DAVE ZALEWSKI
Published June 22, 2007


The biggest decision that has to be made by anglers venturing into the Gulf of Mexico is which species to target.

Spanish mackerel can be found from the swash channel adjacent to the beach out to 60-foot depths and can be targeted many ways. Trolling small gold and silver spoons that match the size of the baitfish in the area behind a No. 1 planer or a small lead sinker at 6 knots is almost a sure thing. Spotting diving bird activity or fish action at the surface or motoring to the spot and casting small plugs will produce instant sporty light tackle action.

Also, anchoring and deploying a bag of frozen chum along with occasional slivers of frozen sardines will often bring them right to the boat, where they can be caught with free-lined live white bait or shrimp. This method is best near the passes on an outgoing tide, but will work almost anytime.

Sharks will be attracted to the chum and activity, providing great sport on lighter tackle. A fresh fillet of mackerel fished with wire leader is irresistible.

Kingfish are still in the area and can be targeted in all the usual areas fished during the "season." The shipping channel from the Whistler Buoy to Markers 5 and 6 along with the mid-water artificial reefs and wrecks still have numerous kingfish, barracuda and bonita that are ready to strike any baitfish. The kingfish that we've been catching have ranged up to 33 pounds and prefer slow-trolled live baits.

The same can be said for barracuda fishing. Trolling hardware is at times effective, but a large blue runner, shoulder-hooked with a stinger rig to force it to run deeper, will usually trigger a bite when all else fails.

Amberjack fishing on the wrecks, springs and rock piles on the pipeline 20 fathoms and deeper has been consistent for those willing to make the trip. Large live baits presented at the depth the fish are suspended is the key to success.

Bottom fishing for gag and red grouper has been better, with good catches reported by anglers fishing the 60- to 100-foot depths.

Red grouper can be found on flat hard-bottom areas along with white grunts and lane snapper. On days when the lack of wind and tide makes it difficult to stay anchored, slow drifting will produce great results. The use of live baits is more effective than dead baits, which are often picked off the hook without the angler's knowledge. Gags are found on ledges and higher-profile structures that also harbor triggerfish, mangrove and yellowtail snapper.

Mahi-mahi have been showing up under the boat while anchored and bottom fishing. When sighted, chum the with small slivers of sardines, and free line one. A light hook will allow the bait to sink. It is imperative to use enough chum to hold their interest but not to fill their relatively small stomachs.