Coastal Angler Magazine | January 2023 | Mississippi Gulf Coast Edition

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SPACE COAST

CHASING BAITBALLS

Winter is the best time to sh,” said Capt. Chris Cameron, “the only problem is the weather.”

Capt. Cameron is owner/operator of Fired Up Fishing Charters out of Cocoa Beach, Fla. He said it was tough to nd good weather windows this November and early December, but that o shore shing is primed to re o like a Space Coast rocket whenever conditions stabilize.

Winter on Florida’s Atlantic Coast can be spectacular because of all the migratory species that push down to overwinter in milder temperatures. King sh, cobia, black n tuna, sail sh and others are all hunting the reefs about 18 miles o Port Canaveral. e key to the shery is menhaden.

“ is time of year, you get these huge baitballs,” said Capt. Cameron, “and there are all these sh following the bait around. You nd sh where you nd ‘bunka’ congregating on the reefs.”

Cameron is a transplant from Long Island, New York, and even a er more than two decades living and shing Florida’s east coast, he still refers to menhaden as “bunka,” which is Yankee dialect for bunker, which is what they call pogies up where boats are winterized this time of year.

“On good days, when you can get o shore and the water is clean, we might catch a limit of kings, a couple cobia, a couple black ns and hopefully a sail sh,” Cameron said. Even with 2022’s tightening of cobia regs, that’s a fun and delicious mixed bag to ll the freezer.

At places like Pelican Reef and 8A Reef, where depths range from 75 to 85 feet, Cameron nds the bait and then goes to work slow trolling live baits on double-hook stinger rigs and 20-pound line and tackle. He said he pulls baits at about 1 knot, which allows them to swim along naturally.

“ e thing with slow trolling is you never know what you’re going to get,” said Cameron. “It could be a big king, a sail sh, a cobia or a shark.”

Pitch rods are kept ready in case a cobia shows up on the surface. Cameron said he’s learned from experience not to over-stimulate cruising cobia by throwing multiple lines at once. Usually, clients can convince cobia to bite with a one-two punch. ey keep a squid-tipped bucktail ready for a quick cast. If that doesn’t draw a strike, it allows time to slap a live bait on the second rig, which is a simple 5/0 circle hook.

Shrimp boats are another option Cameron seeks out this time of year. Although chasing them can be a bit of a time gamble, since they are usually 25 miles o shore over 200 feet of water, they can be extremely productive.

“If you see a shrimp boat o in the distance or spot one on the radar, it’s almost always worth a shot,” Cameron said. “When they dump their bycatch in the morning, it pulls everything up.”

Fishing shrimp boats can be short-lived, but

it can also provide fast action for the same species that come o the reef. For this bite, Cameron beefs up to 6500 spinning gear and 50-pound braid and 50-pound mono leaders. He keeps four pitch rods ready, two with bucktails and two with live baits, because the bite can turn into sight shing

in a hurry. Meanwhile, he’ll search with freelined pogies on a knocker rig.

Contact Capt. Chris Cameron and Fired Up Fishing Charters through their website at redupcharters.com.

Winter’s cold fronts consolidate wahoo to their preferred temperature ranges across their range. is makes them easier to target than at any other time of year. e following is a short list of very good destinations for wintertime wahoo.

San Salvador, Bahamas: Way out in the Atlantic in the southern Bahamas, the waters o San Salvador hold one of the best wahoo sheries in the world. Peak wahoo season is December through April, when hordes of ’hoos migrate to the area’s warm waters. e island might just be the

best place on the planet for a shot at a triple-digit wahoo, and the right conditions can yield fast action for 50-pounders, as well.

Within a short 10-mile run o the island, a seamount rises to 180 feet from 4,000 feet of water. is hump is a well-known feature, where wahoo congregate to feed on schools of small tuna. e remoteness of San Salvador keeps shing pressure in check, but it also makes this one of those bucketlist trips you plan ahead for.

Galveston, Texas: O shore humps out of Galveston, Texas also lay claim to some of the best wahoo shing in the world, and every winter anglers connect with giants. is shery, however, is reserved for anglers with the gumption to make 100-mile overnight runs to features like East and West Flower Gardens to catch the morning bite.

Windows of good weather and big, fast boats are a requirement to reach the shing grounds at the edge of the Continental shelf, where wahoo pile up with bait sh on steep depth changes of rock structure.

Murrell’s Inlet, South Carolina: O the South Carolina coast, cooling water temperatures con ne wahoo to the warm water at the edge of the Gulf Stream. is makes them much easier to target than when they are spread out in summer.

Depth changes and structure at the edge of the Continental Shelf, combined with warm 70 to 80 degree waters of the Gulf Stream can be found 50 or 60 miles o the coast. ese structures hold bait sh in the temperature range where wahoo are comfortable. Covering lots of water with high-speed spreads trolls up the best wahoo of the year, every year.

Venice, Lousiana: It seems everything o shore of Louisiana is about the oil rigs, and in wintertime the oil rigs are all about wahoo. e key to nding wahoo on the rigs is nding the right temperature range, and the magic number is 60 degrees. Wahoo congregate and feed around the rigs where there is bait and water temperatures of at least 60 degrees.

One of the great things about Venice is there are deep-water rigs relatively close to shore at just 15 or 20 miles, which means it’s possible to nd a good weather window and go. e Louisiana coast also boasts some of the best catch rates for wahoo in the world, and 50- to 60-pound sh are the norm.

6 NATIONAL JANUARY 2023 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM
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GO GROCERY SHOPPING IN JANUARY

With grouper season over, it’s time to switch gears and concentrate on other species. is is the time of year to size down and go for the snappers. Depending on water temps, it’s also a good idea to keep a light line out for any pelagics that swim by.

I love yellowtail and a mangrove snappers, but I really like jolt heads, trigger sh, pinkies, black seabass and hog snapper. I treat bottom shing like I’m going (organic) grocery shopping. First and foremost, I don’t shop on every aisle of the grocery store. I go down the aisles that contain the items I really want. e best groceries come from di erent places on the bottom and from di erent depths.

Farther north up the Atlantic coast there are a lot of beeliners (vermilion snapper) taking the place of yellowtails. In this mix will be trigger sh, which I absolutely love! Beeliners and trigger sh have one thing in common: the largest ones of the school stay higher in the water column. is is why I like to sh a level-wind reel versus a spinning reel with small circle hooks for this style of snapper shing. I start dropping one “strip” of the reel

at a time until I get down to the sh. A “strip” is the distance of raising the rod up with your thumb o the spool, and putting your thumb back on the spool. Simply let your thumb o the spool and let it fall in 10-foot “strips” while raising the rod tip upwards. Count the strips it takes to get down to the bites. Four strips will be approximately 40 feet deep. Note where you feel the rst bite. is will usually be the largest triggers and beeliners in the school. If you stop getting bites or you’re only catching smaller sh, let this same tackle go deeper or all the way to the bottom. is is where you’ll catch the jolt heads, black sea bass, mangroves and hogs.

I use a two-hook “chicken rig” made of 50-pound uoro with small circle hooks and a 3-ounce bank sinker. I bait it with small pieces of squid. A small 2- or 3-ounce jig works with the same tackle as the weight instead of a bank sinker. is is especially e ective on large triggers. Just replace the treble hooks or single

J hooks on the back of the jig with small circle hooks and tip with a small piece of squid.

I could go on and on about this style of shing. e limits are pretty good and the reward comes at the table. It is a good time of year to take youngsters out, because this style of shing produces lots of action, and it’s not heavy-duty grouper shing. Little ones love a trip to the “organic grocery store.”

See more from Tim Barefoot at www.barefootcatsandtackle.com and check out a video explaining this style of shing at https://bit.ly/3YcVzV1.

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Find the Bait, Find the Fish

are also several videos covering These Topics and many oThers on our youTube channel “souThern salT KayaK Fishing”. be sure To head over These and subscribe To our channel.

When looking for baitfish there are 2 types that I look for. The first type that I scan the water for are smaller baitfish, such as glass minnows. You will typically find these baitfish in huge pods close to grass lines and structure. Some of my biggest trout days have been chasing down schools of glass minnows that are getting blown up on by speckled trout.

The next type of baitfish I look for are larger profile baits such as croaker, pinfish, and mullet. This time of year you can find these baitfish stacked in creek channels and around mud flats. When looking for schools of these baitfish I’m looking for mullet jumping on the flats or the constant smacks on the surface from croaker, pinfish and pogies.

With winter temps in the low 50’s and the speckled trout becoming less energetic and lethargic, one thing is for certain. The speckled trout will not be far from their food sources. I hope this article was helpful, you can find many more videos covering a variety of inshore fishing topics on our Youtube Channel “Southern Salt Kayak Fishing” Until next time tight lines and stay safe!

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January is a tricky month, but there is usually something to do as long as mother nature plays nice. I have had some jam up unbelievable trout fishing in early January. if we have a warm start to winter, the fishing can be insane. The drawback to a warm January is typically fog. You have to be extremely careful when going out in that stuff, especially if you don't have radar. We will usually fish later in the day or just wait for the fog to break.

Of course if it is a cooler month, We will push the boats deep into the marsh and either fish deeper holes for trout, reds and drum. Or fish the middle part of the day on the flats of the duck Pond's for red fish. Bait is gonna be our main focus. If we aren't seeing bait, we are fishing 5 minutes and moving. Most of the stuff we fish, it's feast or famine fishing.

As with anything this month, temperature plays a huge part in everything we will do. Sometimes the fish will get a little sluggish in that colder water, so it never hurts to bring the Live Bait, or tip artificial baits with dead shrimp.

On those windy chilly days, we will be spending a lot of time on our near shore trips. The sheep head will begin pushing in, in big numbers. Hopefully we will be able to keep getting Live Bait from the local bait shops. Those men and women have been working their tails off all year to keep us in the Live Bait. Live shrimp is the best way to go when targeting the bridges and reefs for the sheep head. We will be bringing plenty of bait, and plenty of tackle. Fishing close to structure for sheep head, it is almost guaranteed you're going to lose tons of hooks and weights.

If you are going to stay off the water or stay in the woods hunting this month, it is a great time to get your boat, trailers, and tackle serviced. The lines at the repair shops are much smaller now, and you can have your stuff ready for spring. It never fails, every single year, the repair shops have a lines out the door that first warm week of spring weather. Plan ahead and you'll be ready, and way ahead of the game.

As always have fun and be safe!

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Mississippi Kitchen Delights

Blackened Tuna Sandwiches w/Garlic Aoli style sauce

Tuna usually isn't the first fish that comes to mind when one thinks of the Alabama and Mississippi Gulf Coast, but the waters off our coasts are home to world class tuna fishing! Although tunas can be caught year round, the early summer months tend to yield the biggest bounties. Luckily for us, early winter also yields productive tuna fishing! Chasing schools of tuna in the open Gulf may not always be an option, so feel free to support local fish markets or grocers when the urge to have an upscale tuna sandwich strikes. These sandwiches are quick, tasty, and go great with sweet potato fries.

IngreDIents:

• 4 yellowfin tuna steaks.

• Arugula.

• Tomato (optional).

• Brioche buns.

• Blackening or Creole seasoning.

• Juice of 1/2 a lemon.

• Sauce ingredients:

• 2 jalapeño peppers.

• 5 cloves garlic.

• 1 cup mayonnaise, we use Duke's.

• 1 tsp chopped fresh dill.

• 1/4 tsp blackening or Creole seasoning

• Juice of 1/2 a lemon.

1. Smash and peel garlic, place it and jalapeños on foil with olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper. Roast pouch of garlic and peppers in 350 degree oven for 30 mins.

2. When peppers are cool, roughly chop them. Smash garlic cloves into paste with fork.

3. Add mayo, jalapeños, garlic, blackening or Creole seasoning, and lemon juice to food processor; pulse until mixed well(5-7 short pulses).

4. Stir in dill and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary; adding salt, pepper, blackening, Creole, or lemon juice if needed.

5. Cover and set in refrigerator for at least one hour to come together

6. Coat tuna steaks lightly with olive oil as a binder and season both sides liberally with blackening or creole style seasoning.

7. Heat cast iron skillet or griddle to medium-high and oil with canola or vegetable oil.

8. Cook tuna 2 mins per side, allowing a nice crust to form before flipping.

9. Remove from heat, drizzle with lemon juice, and let rest 5 mins.

10. Toast Brioche buns in skillet, griddle, or toaster.

Build your sandwiches starting with a generous smear of sauce on both sides of bun. Add a nice heap of arugula, a tomato slice, and top with a tuna steak. Enjoy with a side of sweet potato fries.

Note: Arugula is quite peppery and compliments tuna nicely. If you can't find arugula, use your favorite leafy green.

10 mississippi gulf coast january 2023 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM
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NEW HOOK DESIGN ALLOWS FISH TO RELEASE THEMSELVES

Researchers have designed and tested a new style of hook that takes catch-and-release to a whole new level. ese “bite-shortened” hooks are intended to allow sh to “release themselves” without being handled by the angler.

Dr. Holden Harris, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Florida’s Nature Coast Biological Station, was the mastermind behind the study. In his write up on Hook Line & Science, a North Carolina Sea Grant blog, he promoted the bene ts of e cient de-hooking and minimal handling of caught sh to considerably improve chances of survival for released sh. e hook he tested is a modi ed jig, which researchers clipped at the point, so that this “bite” portion of the hook—the business end— was reduced in length from 15 mm to 10 mm. e simple modi cation just clipped the barb and vertical length beyond the bend of the hook before it was re-sharpened. Harris tested it against a standard jighead as well as a jighead with the barb led down on 150 spotted seatrout. ey went shing with all three jigheads, reeled in the sh and then allowed the sh to op around boat-side until they either did or did not come unhooked.

“We found promising results for the bite-

shortened modi ed hook, which enabled anglers to land 91 percent of hooked spotted seatrout and then release 87 percent of those sh without direct handling,” Harris wrote. “In comparison, the self-release success rates were 47 percent using barbless hooks and 20 percent using standard, unmodi ed hooks.”

Additionally, Harris found that smaller seatrout were able to “self-release” at higher rates than larger ones.

Coastal Angler contributor and seatrout-on-

arti cials guru Michael Okruhlik has written on his use of barbless hooks when targeting pods of trout crashing bait. He said the ability to quickly and safely release sh without taking them out of the water allows him to get back in the action faster.

Maybe anglers would use a hook designed to let sh come unbuttoned?

For a video of this hook modi cation, see https://youtu.be/VC23oNikyc8

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Amonster gold sh aptly named “Carrot” has been making the rounds on social media recently a er the sh was caught from a trophy carp lake in Champagne, France. UK angler Andy Hackett caught the nearly 70-pound bright orange sh from Bluewater Lakes, a heavily managed, privately owned pay-to-play shery that boasts of carp weighing heavier than 90 pounds.

Carrot seems to be somewhat of pet, but not the type you’d keep in a sh bowl. She is a crossbreed between leather carp and koi, and was stocked in the lake 15 years ago to give anglers an interesting sh to pursue.

“I always knew e Carrot was in there but never thought I would catch it,” said Hackett. It took him 25 minutes to reel in pot-bellied carp, which o cially weighed an astounding 67.4 pounds.

Carp caught at Bluewater Lakes are handled very carefully with a strict catch-and-release policy.

For more record sh, visit coastalanglermag.com.

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TIPS FROM A PRO

THROW A LIPLESS CRANKBAIT FOR WINTER BASS

Some cold but very fun shing days are ahead, and a Trapstyle bait is my absolute favorite way to sh this time of year. Typically sh group up in winter, and whether that be bait sh or bass, there are opportunities that make lipless crankbaits absolutely deadly!

rowing a lipless crank around areas where sh are chasing bait or where they are grouped up has caught lots of bass and some big ones. Even casting this bait as a search bait can work wonders. ere are so many options for lipless cranks that it can get confusing. I’ve experimented plenty, so I hope this article helps.

Traps range from ¼ oz. up to 1 oz. in weight, and every size can be used di erently. I pick sizes depending on the depth I’m shing or the depth of the structure, and I also consider the natural bait that is prevalent in the area. If you’re shing shallow or around tiny bait sh, a ¼-oz. size will be the best bet. A ½-oz. is usually my goto. It’s great for the mid-range depths of 5 to 10 feet, and it imitates a range of bait sh sizes.

A ¾-oz. is a bit bigger, and I don’t throw it as much, but it certainly has its place in 10 to 20-foot depths.

Remember, you can always vary your retrieve to get these baits higher or lower in the water column.

Color is another key factor. Ninety percent of the time, I sh a bait sh color. Whether it’s a shad, shiner or bluegill pattern, natural colors always work for me. I also throw orange or red a lot in winter. ese colors imitate craw sh, and they work where craw sh are prevalent. Match your bait color to the forage in the lake.

e last factor for lipless baits is sound related. ey come in silent, multi-rattle or single-knocker versions. I go silent for very clear water and heavily pressured sh, when appearing natural is important. e multi-rattle baits make a lot of noise, and the commotion draws strikes. My go-to, though, is the one-knocker style. is sound is unique and a little deeper pitched. I feel like sh, over the years, have become accustomed to the loud versions. I nd the single-knocker gets a few more bites in most situations.

With treble hooks, rod selection is important. You just reel into the sh when you get a bite, and this means your rod needs a solid backbone to drive those hooks and also a good amount of tip for keeping sh on during the ght. My go-to rod is a 13 Fishing Omen Black 7’4 Medium Heavy Moderate. e 13 Fishing Concept A 7:5:1 is a perfect reel for this application. I sh 15- to 20-lb. Seaguar Invizx line, depending on the structure I’m shing.

I hope these Trap tips help you put a few more sh in your boat this winter!

Tyler Woolcott is a professional tournament angler and guide. Check out his website at www.tylerwoolcott shing.com.

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RECORD LONGFIN TUNA LANDED OFF NEW JERSEY

ANew Jersey angler eked out a new state record for albacore (long n) tuna in October when he boated a 78-pound, 2.4-ounce long n that bested the previous 1984 record by 3.4 ounces.

Matthew Florio, of Brick, N.J., is a commercial scalloper and he was shing with the rest of his scalloping crew aboard the Luna Sea at the east elbow of Hudson Canyon, the largest known underwater canyon o the east coast of the U.S. ey were at least 75 miles o shore and chunking for yellow n tuna, which is a technique that involves cutting up a bunch of butter sh and throwing them overboard before following up with hooked chunks of butter sh. e crew was already having a good day with yellow ns when Matthew hooked into his big albacore. He battled it in with a Kevin Bogan 30 Stand Up rod and a Penn 30 reel loaded with 60-pound mono lament. e sh measured 48 and 3/8 inches long and had a girth of 37 inches. e previous record was a 77-pound, 15-ounce long n caught in 1984 by Dr. S. Scannapiego in Spencer Canyon.

For more record sh, see coastalanglermag.com.

14 NATIONAL JANUARY 2023 COASTALANGLERMAG.COM • THEANGLERMAG.COM

DO BIG LURES = BIG FISH?

Now that Jack Frost has bay temperatures thoroughly chilled, only diehard lure chuckers will be found stalking the ats. Most of us have one thing in mind this time of year, catching a trophy trout. Here is how I approach my quest for that dirty 30-incher.

When water temperature stabilizes in the COLD range, all the migratory forage ees for warmer pastures. e bays are le with larger mullet as the primary food source for prized speckled trout. is is the time of year that I pull out my larger lures. is could be a longer length, a wider pro le, or both. is doesn’t have to be a 12-inch lure that is no fun to cast all day, but I do upsize from my typical 3- and 4-inch lures that I use most of the year. We have all seen a 25-inch trout with a 15-inch mullet in its belly, so they will eat something huge, but giant baits aren’t as fun to sh.

My con dence lures this time of the year are typically a 4-inch wide-pro le slow-sinking lure or a 5-inch bulky body paddletail. Since plastisol is buoyant, the bulky lure will have a slower sink rate, which I prefer under most conditions. e

slower sink allows for dual bene ts this time of year. Logically, the slower sink rate matches the slower mood of a cold sh. Also, I spend a lot of time targeting sh over shallow grass in knee-deep water. A slower sink rate keeps my lure in the strike zone longer before it disappears into the grass.

weedless hook. Depending on the conditions, I might go weightless or with a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce jighead. e weedless version keeps me out of the grass, it lessens the opportunity for my cold, less-dexterous hands to be impaled by a hook, and most of all, it does less damage to the trophy sh that I am targeting.

Areas I target will be near deeper water, have so er bottom, have visible forage, structure and hopefully be lowertra c areas. While planning trips, I take into consideration moon phase, current conditions and recent conditions when determining where to sh.

I have never caught a trophy trout by accident. I don’t know if that is lucky or unlucky, but every trout I have landed over 27 inches was on a day when I set out speci cally targeting larger sh. Case in point, if you want to catch trophy trout consistently, you must make the e ort to target them, sh where they live and be attentive to details. I know numerous anglers have caught large trout with no e ort, but most don’t catch two.

The Return of a

I t my 5-inch rattling paddletail with a

Capt. Michael Okruhlik is the inventor of Knockin Tail Lures®, and the owner of www.MyCoastOutdoors.com.

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