Went to Panama City this past week and did some offshore fishing. I have a 19' Trophy CC and like to troll for Kings, Dolphin, etc. We usually go out between 10 to 20 miles.
My buddy and I gathered 3 5-gal gas cans and decided to go farther out than usual. We left my moms house just at dawn for about a 7 or 8 mile ride to the St. Andrews pass, and after a few hours we were 40 miles out due SW from the pass in about 252 feet of water.
All in all we basically wanted to see what the fuel situation would be. After topping off what fuel we burnt, we trolled back NE towards "home". We located a few really nice weed lines and picked up a few "peanut dolphin" ( a term for dolphin in the 3 to 5 lb class) and saw a very large sea turtle.
All of a sudden, the reel went ZZZZIIIIIINNNNNNNGGGGG................................................
As my buddy tried to tighten up on the drag (mistake) the line got tight and broke with a very high pitch twang..... our hearts were broke . I assume that it must have been a really big King fish, Wahoo, or maybe even a Tuna as we were still in the "deep blue water". The fish hit on a multi-colored "Duster Jig" that was attached to a SeaStriker #2 down planer. Steel leader used of course. I was also using a Penn 113H reel with 35 lb test line.
Next year, I will be prepared with about 30 gals of extra fuel. So long as the weather is nice and no obvious fronts are approaching, we plan to get out to about the 45 or 50 mile mark. We will be much more patient next time we get what seems to be a large fish on......
I am looking for some new trolling areas in the Gulf, near Clearwater, Tampa/St.Pete, or South of there. Anyone from there care to share some info? I live just North of Orlando and don't mine a drive in the 2 to 3 hour range.
Off West Central FLorida (Tampa-St.Pete) you have to start at around the 40+ mile mark to hit deep water for the pelagics. Farther than I want to go in 19CC. But thats just me.
You can hit Kings in closer when their around and plenty of bloodclots (Bonito) and cuda on the artreefs and wrecks if that your thing.
As you may or may not know WestCental Gulf has been hit with a rash of redtide and it has really dicked things up for the prey items which of course attract the gamefish. I would head to Jacksonville to Sebastian area with a trailered boat as you can hit deep water closer to shore.
However a 19cc in the Atlantic has it risks if the weather turns on you. We had 27' BW Outrage but recently sold it. IF i get the hankerin to go offshore I privatecharter. I can go 12 times a year (more than I was able to go when I was in my own boat) and save about $8000+ annually on boat payments, insurance dry dock etc.
Be careful and tight lines.
So many times I have been out 15 to 20 miles and the gulf is laid down pretty flat. I figured that so long as no noticable fronts are approaching weather should not be a factor, baring the occasional thunder head that pops up in late afternoon.
I would be a total looser to try to go "WAY" out knowing that some type of defined front is approaching.
Question for the salty dogs: When you have several good days, rising pressure, and no fronts on the way, the weather simply can't "Turn On You" so bad that it creates a "small craft advisory" can it??
Also, I am aware of the effects of an outgoing tide when a strong off-shore wind is in-bound. This is especially dangerous for small inlets/passes.
As you know fronts can whip up on you real quick like in the GoM. I would do 40miles offshore perhaps in the right 19cc that was equipped properly. Meaning to me at a minimum: an EPIRB, proper "jump ship" kit and rated PFDs w/ experienced shipmates that were capable of handling the float/wait without freaking thus becoming a liability (read not the wife or SO). The biggest threat in a smaller boat like that is capsizing if you loose power (engine trouble/ fuel) in the middle of heavy seas. If that happens, it happens quick and it is not like you have alot of leisure time to get your gear together and hop in the drink so your shiot needs to be squared away. Weekends are better because there is more boat traffic. I have gone to 40+ on a weekday and have not seen another boat all day. I have gone to the same area on Saturday and saw 10+ boats within 2 miles of each other. At least with an EPIRB, and they are cheap enough these days, the CG can home in on you. Rather than a blind search misson where they've got to find a needle in a haystack out there to save you. If your doing distance in a small boat get your jump ship or bail out kit together and put alot of thought into planning it. Simple things for example. Drinking water. Ever try to un-cap a water bottle in heavy seas while in a PFD without loosing it or flooding your supply with seawater ? Lots of folks dont think of the details like that and end up in serious trouble.
If you are prepared to do 40NM the offshore markers and towers are within reach on the Atlantic side offering some pretty killer pelagic trolling around them at times.
It sure as shit can. We went out last weekend (8/5) for as trip to the "Elbow" about 85 miles west of CLW. On the day we left the Gulf was like this:
All we heard was how the Gulf was flat as a pond 100 miles out and everyone was slayin fish. It was also the last weekend of the higher grouper limits, so 4 of us loaded up my buddy's 26ft Century and we took off around 7pm. It was a little snotty on the way out and we could only make about 15 knots. At 10 miles, I called a buddy at home who looked at the 100 mile bouys on the web for me. He said they showed 1.5ft waves and 4knot winds. Better than we were seeing close to shore, so we decided to go out.
We stopped at the Blackthorn wreck about 20 miles out and caught a mess of Grunts for bait. They died immediately upon hitting the live well. The f-ing Red Tide is that far out. The stench was bad out to about 30 miles. Unreal. At about 70 miles we heard the first "small craft advisories". Wonderful. So much for the weather predictions.
We didn't get to our spot until 330am and we just anchored up and tried to get some sleep on the deck. It sucked because the Gulf was churning big time. 4-5ft, high-frequency waves from all directions. We would take one over the gunwales and get soaked about every 15 minutes. Fun. I popped a Dramamine for the first time in my 30-ish years of boating/fishing.
We got up around 630 and started fishing but it pretty much sucked because of the water. We were bouncing all over the place. Started at the north side of The Elbow and worked SW. If Red Grouper were legal at 18", we would have made a killing, LOL. We only got one keeper Gag and 2 reds, 1 King Mackerel. Lots of Snapper. Some small Mangos.
We ran into two different schools of Dolphin under weeds and worked them a while. My friend hooked one big bull that shook loose before he got in the boat. I got a Bonita that I thought was an AJ or Tuna til it got close. Awesome fight though. We were hoping for a lot more grouper.
The weather stared closing down reeeeaaal fast around 1100, so we took off for home. We listened as the warning was given for all craft to seek shelter immediately. Little hard when you're 85 miles out. We made some "Perfect Storm" jokes until the boat almost broached in a wierd quartering wave and the two of us in back almost got chucked out. We put on rain gear and PFDs at that point. I stuck a whistle, a mirror and a bottle of water in my pockets as well. We also triple checked the EPIRB in the cabin.
We monitored a MAYDAY call to the USCG from some assholes, two guys, one of whom managed to cut off his finger. This was when we were still about 45 miles out, the seas were shit and the dillweeds had no GPS, only a handheld VHF and didn't even know how big their boat was. The CG lost their signal and asked for assitance from boats in the area to act as a relay, so we went in circles for a while (with the f-ing storm beating us) trying to pick up the call from the SS Minnow. The USCG finally thanked us and told us to head for safety. I'd love to know if they had to fly out to those two dipshits.
It looked like this on the way back:
Not my pics... my hands were occupied by holding on to the boat, but from some guys who were making the same run home a few miles north of us.
We were seriously happy to get back on shore. We were pissed the predictions were so off and we were disappointed that the Red Tide killed our friggin bait. With live bait, we would have got some good fish, regardless of weather. The only decent grouper was caught on a snapper we split the tail on and baited up.
Here is what $500 bucks of fish looks like after gas, bait, beer...
My buddy and his barely legal gag:
If he doesn't look thrilled it's cause this same guy just caught the World Record Hogfish in SC about a month ago, so he thought this trip kinda sucked.
Moral to the story - don't trust the weather predicitions when you're dealing with the Gulf in summer. And be damned sure you have a tough boat, good engines, a radar, GPS, EPIRB and safety gear.
Thanks for the input guys, I appreciate all the advise. FC, you are absoloutly right, folks don't think about the "small" stuff that tends to become the "big" stuff when the SHTF. The long trips would only be with someone I felt that I could count on, definately not my 10 y/o son, would not want to put him in that situation.
BayEagle, thanks for the input as well, great story and pics. My boat is much smaller and 40 to 45 miles ON A GOOD DAY is MAX no doubt. Sounds like the two guys had it coming..... Thanks again.
I used to have a 22' Pro-Line CC and fished out of (usually) John's Pass in Madeira Beach. My .02 is that if all you have is a 19' either stay close to shore or wait until the winter when the grouper get a little closer. I think you can hit deeper water faster coming out of John's Pass than Clearwater Pass. All ramps are pretty much a joke, don't even think about trying to go to Belleair Bridge ramp unless you're there EARLY. I could never flog the crew into anchoring well enough to get on top of the few spots I knew. I usually trolled around with planers and plugs and when we got a fish I marked it with the GPS and rolled it from all points again. If you go to some of the smaller artificial reefs off IRB, chum, chum, chum. Was with a guy and we got a 46" King in June. Learn how to use a cast net if you don't already. Hang a chum bag out over the side, and use whatever you can net. Got a couple of nice flounder on the same trip. Red tide still sucks though. There is a 3 mile reef out of Clearwater Pass. Watch the weather in summer!!!!