The sky was black as the 26′ Yellowfin 24-7 slipped into the water at the Clearwater ramp. We had left the house at 4:00 A.M. as there was plenty of work to do before we wet a line. The new moon hinted of strong tides offshore, we would just have to wait and see. Red snapper season was on and the 6 of us were expecting to find some big red snapper.
It took about 30 minutes to reach Captain Lee Longworth’s friends dock where the bait corral was located. We quickly transferred the bait caught the day before into the bait well. Our next stop was to cast net some big greenbacks the Capt. had spotted nearby. We then moved offshore to the captain’s pinfish traps he had put out the night before. We unloaded 2 of the 4 bait traps and returned the contents of the other 2 back into the sea; as our bait well was full.
It was about 6:15 A.M. and the gray color of dawn was beginning to show as the captain wound up the engines to about 42 miles per hour. We skimmed the water north east for about 2 hours toward the snapper hole locked into the GPS/Autopilot. Our first drop was in 220 feet of water and luck was with us; no strong tide. My first fish was a 12 pound red grouper, followed by a similar size gag grouper by another angler. Then the fun began.
At first the red snapper were only in the 8 to 10 pound range. Then the bigger snapper started to bite. We limited out on red snapper up to 18 pounds and moved the boat to a grouper spot. We immediately caught 6 scamp and another big red grouper.
One angler put the electric reel/rod in the holder with the lead and empty hook overboard while he went for more bait. Meanwhile a 4′ shark either ate or ran into the empty hook, breaking the rod base and pulling the whole rig overboard. At first we all thought the rig was gone for good. Then someone noticed the electric cord was still plugged in and jumping around. The cord was pulled in hand over hand, landing the electric rod & reel and the 4 foot shark. The reel was attached to another rod and it worked just fine. That was $500 worth of good luck.
Our next drop was a wreck for amberjack. We pulled in a 70 and a 60 pound amberjack, plus 2 more smaller fish. We moved to a spot known for grouper sized mangrove snapper. However, everytime we hooked up, a Goliath grouper would take it away from us. One 300 pound Goliath was brought to the surface, vented and released.
The sun was down and we still had 50 miles or so to travel back to the dock. After we cleaned the fish and washed the boat, I went home, took a shower and got to bed at 2 A.M. the next morning. A really great day on the water with a great captain and crew. Snapper fingers anyone?