I thought I was strong until a black grouper holding on an underwater reef during December took my bait and tried to prove that it was stronger than me. But that night, after the 35-pound grouper had been cleaned, I took some of that grouper to a restaurant and had it prepared three delicious ways: blackened, grilled, and pan fried.
During the fall and winter months, ice, snow, high winds, and bad weather keep many anglers at home. However, you’ll find some of the finest saltwater fishing imaginable on the Upper Gulf of Mexico Coast then. From the Florida Panhandle over to the Texas coast, anglers will be catching grouper, snapper, triggerfish, and amberjacks that fight hard and are delicious to eat. Although red snapper season is closed, a large variety of other snapper that are easy to catch and good to eat, including vermilion snapper, lane snapper, gray snapper, and white pogies, commonly called white snapper, are available. Grouper fishing at this time of year for black and red grouper, scamp, and Warsaw brings many anglers out of their warm houses and cold weather into the sunshine of the Southern states.
If you move further offshore to one of the many deep-water oil rigs, you’ll find yellowfin and blackfin tuna as well as cobia, king mackerel, marlin, and grouper ready and willing to bite all fall and winter. Oftentimes the temperatures are warm enough to fish in a short sleeve t-shirt, wearing only a light jacket.
Many anglers don’t go offshore fishing during the fall and winter because they don’t want to miss their favorite football teams’ games on television. But numbers of charter boat captains have installed satellite television on board. Anglers can watch and listen to the games while they’re fishing, and/or relax in the cabin salon area while the boat moves from one fishing spot to the other. Also during football season, finding a top captain who’s willing to take you offshore fishing is easier than locating a captain during the spring and summer. Hotel and motel prices are usually drastically reduced, and you won’t have to wait in line at some of the finest restaurants to get a table.
Anglers generally can fight and catch enough offshore fish to provide plenty of saltwater fish dinners until spring arrives. The yellowfin tuna in the winter will weigh 50 to 150 pounds each; the blackfin tuna eight to 20 pounds; the gag grouper (this season is open until December 3rd) from 12 to 50 pounds or more; scamp 5 to 15 pounds; and the Warsaw grouper 20 to 100 pounds or more.
Another new type of wintertime fishing that anglers have discovered is deep water fishing for tilefish, yellowedge, and snowy grouper—and some fish you’ll have to look up in a fish dictionary to discover their names. These fish live below 400 feet from the surface and are often caught at 600 to 800 feet deep. Anglers use electric reels to get their lines down to the bottom and to help bring their fish back to the surface. To catch and eat some fun-fighting, delicious saltwater fish throughout the winter until springtime, now’s the time to plan a trip to the Upper Gulf of Mexico Coast.
Check out John Phillips’ eBooks for more info on offshore Gulf fishing and delicious recipes.
Images by John Phillips