As July draws to a close, the recreational red snapper season for summer 2022 will come to an end. When that happens, many deep-water fishermen will shift their focus to other targets in search of dinner.
On Wednesday, I joined Captain Carlos Boothby to see how fish are being caught close to shore in the bay. The plan was to slowly run 10 to 20 miles on his 24-foot canoe if the weather allowed. I collected a variety of baits from frozen squid and sardines to live shrimp which joined with pinfish and white bait after a morning of bait catching. As we headed west into the bay, the weather was lovely with a southerly swell of a foot high.
The first stop was a 50-foot ledge. The sting started slow with trigger fish and grunts. After a while, I could see the snapper rising on the Lowrance electronics, so I outfitted a 1/16-ounce jig head with the shrimp. After a few missed bites, I finally added the first mangofish to the box. Their quick, nimble bite could easily steal the bait, but when the technique worked, we repeated the slow descent. Over the next half hour we landed about 10 more before deciding to go ahead and explore somewhere else.
The next stop was in about 60 feet of water. Another small edge I was hoping would produce more mangrove fish, grouper and maybe grouper. Boothby hit the bottom with a 1.25-ounce Pink Hogball with Shrimp. I stayed with a 1/16 oz jig head.
After about a minute on the bottom, he took a slight hit and installed the hook. Fighting swam sideways while working on the bottom. I didn’t want to say what I thought it was. But when I looked down in the water, my suspicions were confirmed – a pig-fish, and my suspicions so great! I grabbed the net and swung it into the boat.
It was the first pigfish I remember back in July. It’s usually a saved goal for the colder water months, not the 88 degrees we saw that day. It may have been once, but it’s still impressive.
On my next diagonal, I came hard at a fish as the jig’s head slowly descended. With an old shoe fight, I felt like a grouper. This was confirmed, and the favorite 18-inch grouper was added to the 20-inch boar and snapper in the box.
The sting died quickly and we bounced around more edges in the 60 to 70 foot range. We’ll get a few bites in each spot before needing to move on for more action. In an attempt to catch grouper on small pieces of the bottom, I instead landed a 200-pound goliath grouper and a 20-pound goliath grouper. They have expanded their areas and taken over many ledges and areas of rocks as well as debris and reefs. In the end, I installed a bouncer grouper on a 20-pound leader and jigger head after I successfully slid off the bottom a few times.
What’s even more impressive is that we got three more hogfish a day by catching shrimp on the bottom! In the end, we had a variety of chests filled.
Moving on from a red snapper will make many fishermen wonder what it’s like to fish near shore. Depending on the way we did it, it should provide plenty of options for anglers who enjoy moving around and eating.