Capt. Todd Romine has a lifetime of knowledge fishing around Bradenton. He’s seen just about everything possible in over 30 years of guiding, so when he gets really excited about fish, it has to be something unique. One of the reasons I love fishing with him is knowing he will give the best possible chance to catch fish in a variety of conditions.
This past week I joined Romine as we ventured into the Gulf of Mexico to target a few fish for the table like gag grouper, hogfish and snapper before the end-of-year regulation changes. An unusually warm and calm December day led to some patchy fog, making our run west past Bean Point eerie at times. The full moon a night earlier had the potential to make fishing a little sporadic, but we were not deterred.
Our first stop was 6 miles over a ledge. We sorted through the pinfish and whitebait Romine caught on the flats to start dropping some of the 16-dozen shrimp in the livewell. The early biters were aggressive trigger fish. After catching and releasing quite a few, we dropped back on the ledge to find a mixture of porgies and gag grouper before the bite shut down.
“The current is strong here,” Romine noted. “The bottom fishing nearshore is usually slow when the current is this strong.”
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We headed about 4 miles further west to another ledge finding a few mangrove snapper mixed in with other by catch. The bite seemed a little slow before Romine pointed us further south to an area of swiss cheese bottom. The red grouper proved aggressive, followed by a hogfish. A few of the whitebaits we had thrown over while fishing were attacked in the distance by kingfish skyrocketing, but they did not hang around.
The last stop was a rock pile we arrived to with about an hour of fishing left about 8 miles offshore. It was now noon, the current was slowing and what little wind was around went slack.
With the limited time we had left most of the whitebait was shoveled overboard, and soon the surface frothed with pelagic species. Romine threw out a few more handfulls of bait as his eyes lit up with excitement. The sight of 20- to 30-pound kingfish going 6 feet in the air 40 feet from the boat was a wonderful experience that the veteran captain said will never get old.
Romine then did something he rarely gets to do, throw out his own baited rod. It only took half a second before the drag of his Finnor spinning reel was screaming. After a short fight, he brought in a kingfish that was released.
After that, we merely admired the sight of the aggressive kings as we attempted to land another late season gag grouper. Romine sent down one of the largest grunts left in the livewell, and it didn’t take long before he was doubled over. Up came a nice gag grouper, and it went into the cooler for the trip home.
The late season surface life is something rare for Romine but something he loves to see.
“It’s like the seasons get later and later each year,” he said. “Most people don’t believe how good this fishing is right now based on years past.”
The best part of the current fishery is the options. Literally everything is available from snook fishing on the flats, permit and pompano on the beaches, to grouper, snapper, kingfish and the occasional tuna nearshore. If you want to catch it, there’s a good chance it’s possible, as long as the water temperatures remain higher than normal.
Capt. Todd Romine can be reached at 941-920-5049.
Source: U.S. Naval Observatory data