As the CEO of Outdoor Hub, I find that participating regularly in the great outdoors keeps me more in line with our mission of being the outdoor information engine.
Early on Christmas morning, we boarded the 1995 25-foot-long Sea Cat on a mission to pursue red grouper. We shot off into moderate seas some 25 miles out. Along the way, with anticipation running high, we passed several stone crab traps which made me hungry even at 7:30AM. Ed Johnson of Fish Factory Charter Services, our captain and guide, was boasting about how solid the bite has been in the days past. My dad, brother Andy and I were seriously hoping that Santa would surprise us with bent poles and a cooler full of fish.
After the first reef in about 60 feet of water, we caught 23 fish; eight each for my dad and brother and seven for me. We kept a few grunts and some porgies but the grouper were either out of season gag grouper or non-keeper reds. We are now hauling ass out to the deeper water, 80 foot depth bound. I have a feeling things will be getting interesting soon enough. We have already put the smack down on Mardi Gras wings, a big bag of chips and we are still before 10:00AM. For the record, Captain Ed Johnson hasn’t had a bite to eat yet and is hyper focused on putting some monster reds in the boat, which is all good with me.
Well, we are dropping anchor at 72.6 feet of water and there appear to be seriously suspended grouper marks covering the lower part of the fish graph. The waves have picked up and a four foot chop surrounds the Sea Cat. Despite the rougher water, the fishing heated up a bit. My brother Andy put two fat red snapper in the boat and I added a third porgy. The grouper were ubiquitous, however none were worth keeping. I did, however, put a four foot sand shark in the boat which was a riot. Andy was scared to touch it but our dad handled it like it was a little minnow. Then again, as quiet as his rod had become, he needed something to do. Eventually it was time to move on to reef 3, hoping that Santa would finally bring us that red grouper we had been asking for. I began to think that the captain has been holding out on us. My brother is cranking some country music and now I got the feeling that it was about to heat up!
Check out a video of the shark:
Reefs 3 and 4
Despite the good feelings, we didn’t manage to catch any keeper red grouper at the third reef. But gauging our progress by the amount of food left, we only ate a half of an Italian sub and a few chicken wings, so you know there’d been plenty of action. If gag grouper were in season we’d be in great shape. As we pull up to reef 4 my shirt is off, the sun is cranking and Andy has peeled us a clementine. The big red grouper can only elude our Farbman fishing talents for so long. Did I mention our dad hasn’t boated a fish in a while? He is apparently getting older. Just kidding, but look out reef number 5 – even our dad says he is ready now. We shall soon find out if he can pull out of this deep slump he has entered. My bro and I are cheering for him. Captain Ed has started eating now and I got a feeling it’s on soon.
Reef 5 was a bust. That said, thank the Lord our dad caught a little snapper because we were getting worried about him. Captain Ed is a little pissed and has made the decision we are going further out, soon to be 30 miles off shore with zero keeper grouper in the boat but our hopes remain high. That said, as a Detroit Lions fan in the playoffs, how can you not have confidence? Pulling up to reef 6 now and lets hope it is more eventful then the former. This Captain is busting his hump and the poles have been continually bent so I definitely endorse him and would fish with him again. That said its time to hook into some girthy reds! Come on baby!
Reef 6 proved to be the best reef of the day. My familial dominance reached new heights as I 5-to-1 out-caught my brother. What about my dad you ask? Well let’s just say he has a very nice sun tan.
All and all it was an awesome five hours on the water. We have a box full of grunts, snapper, porgies and released a good 50 grouper. The day was awesome, my arms and back are exhausted and I added some nice color to my skin!
Captain Ed Johnson is the real deal and has hundreds of reefs out on these waters and I wouldn’t fish with anyone else around Sarasota! This guy knows this area like the back of his hand. If you find yourself headed out to the Sarasota, Florida area you can reach captain Ed Johnson at 941-321-1567 and you are guaranteed a great time and a lot of action.
It was a memorable Christmas morning with my family soon afterward we headed in set to catching largemouth in the pond behind our dad’s place with our kids. Fishing, family, and the holidays… life doesn’t get much better than that!