Every trip into the Gulf of Mexico is unique. I’ve been fortunate enough to venture west of Anna Maria Island a handful of times in search of red snapper this summer, thanks to the extended season, and each trip seems to provide a unique memory.
Last Sunday was another one of those days as we headed west with familiar people to familiar spots with some unforgettable surprises.
It began around 6:30 a.m. as I joined Kyle Grimes aboard the Legal Limit. We pointed west of Bean Point after filling the livewell with a variety of baits, joining the shrimp and pass crabs previously acquired. It was a typical summer day, hot and calm, with a slightly overcast sky providing a bit of relief from the scorching sun.
Our first stop in about 80 feet of water for permit proved unsuccessful. With calm seas, we decided to keep heading west with limited weekends remaining in red snapper season.
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As we ran deeper, the amount of life on the surface was immense. There were birds, bait and gamefish causing a commotion frequently on the journey beyond 80-feet deep.
Kyle spotted an object in the distance. We turned slightly off course to see what it was. You never know when a floating object in the Gulf of Mexico will hold life below it. Something simple and small like a crab trap can turn into its own ecosystem.
As we approached the object, a floating four-legged white plastic chair, we could see plenty of life around this artificial habitat. “Tripletail!” I said. “Get some baits ready.”
This chair held as much life as anything I’ve ever seen floating in the Gulf.
We swung around, and Grimes put a shrimp near the chair. In an instant it was eaten. An acrobatic and tasty tripletail was eventually netted, about 12 pounds.
There were many others fish and tripletail around the chair, and we kept a distant powered drift to not spook anything off of it. Below the boat hundreds of small mahi darted in and out of sight. It was magical.
With another cast, Chris Kennedy landed an even bigger tripletail, probably 15 pounds. Andrew Hausinger would land another smaller but feisty tripletail.
Off the back of the boat I kept a small whitebait free-lined that a mahi made a meal of. Rinse and repeat and more mahi were landed.
When all was said and done, this single floating plastic chair gave up five tripletail, six mahi and a few other random fish like barjacks and ocean triggerfish. We left with fish feeding for another lucky boat to find. It was something none of us will forget.
Out deeper in 120 feet, the red snapper bite was good for a few fish before shutting off at each spot. We landed our limit or red snapper along with a few red grouper and mangrove snapper. The key is to not stay in any one spot for too long, a typical summer bite, as fish seem to be lethargic in the middle of the day.
Shallower we tried for gag grouper, but were met with very slow bites.
It was a successful day made better by a lucky find, once again reaffirming our belief that any object big or small is worth taking a look at for life in the Gulf of Mexico.
Next weekend will be the last for American red snapper season, with the final day being Labor Day, Sept. 4. Hopefully calm weather will great anglers who once again head into the Gulf of Mexico for a day of surprises.
Source: U.S. Naval Observatory data