Scattered across the Gulf of Mexico floor are millions of potential fishing spots. Rock piles, ledges, reefs, springs, sink holes, rolls, swiss cheese, cracks and even sea fans make great fishing spots among the variety of common natural bottoms found offshore. Basically anything structure oriented in the Gulf will hold fish like grouper and snapper that anglers love to target.
Popular spots tend to get recycled between friends, or in the worst case scenario, posted online. All offshore anglers have a few places that they hold close to the vest and keep secret. We may get a little protective when people ask for a spot or see a boat approach from the distance while on anchor offshore at a place we may have thought was only ours.
“My spot” is a term used often. We, as anglers, think a set of numbers means ownership when it comes to the Gulf of Mexico, and some funny interactions occur when boats vie for the same bottom many miles from shore, no matter how popular or secretive the spot may be.
In most cases avoiding, the popular areas and finding your own spots is the most rewarding and best way to catch quality fish.
So how do you find new spots? Having good equipment and technology makes a world of difference and pays for itself when everything comes together. A new bottom finding unit from popular marine companies Garmin, Simrad, Lowrance, Hummingbird or Raymarine will cost between a few hundred or a few thousand dollars.
More important is keeping your equipment on depth finder mode and 4X zoom while running between spots and looking for what you want to fish. Zooming allows anglers to see little changes that would often be missed without it. The best spots are often small cracks, ledges or rock piles that are harder to find.
If looking for new spots while running, go at a speed that allows a decent read out on the depth finder. Most machines can read well up to 30 mph on calm days. If you see something that looks fishy either on the bottom or just off the bottom, take the time to stop and investigate. Go back and see if you can get a better idea of what the bottom is, maybe even dropping a few baits. Catching a grouper or snapper proves there is structure you want to fish.
Another way to find new spots in the Gulf is trolling. Big lipped plugs, planers and downriggers allow anglers the opportunity to troll pretty deep water for grouper and kingfish while looking for new bottom. This is extremely effective in areas that you have a few spots fairly close together. Troll between them, looking at your machine for what could be bottom you’ve been ignoring for too long.
If the weather gets just right, there is usually a period where dark areas of bottom can be seen from the surface. This is typically in early spring and bottom spots can be seen as deep as 60 feet from the surface. This is a great time to head out and scout.
Finally, if you do find a new spot, it always helps to know what’s down there. Divers have a huge advantage of knowing exactly what spots are like. I can’t dive, so have found ways to learn spots by using my GoPro to see what is below. A waterproof camera like the GoPro allows me to know what the bottom is truly like.
The nearshore Gulf of Mexico will be a great place to fish over the next month while gag grouper are still in season. Kingfish are still around, mangrove snapper seem to be covering almost all structure, and big gags have been caught in shallow water between 30 and 60 feet. No matter if you’re fishing in 10 feet or 150 miles out, be attentive while you motor between spots as the next honey hole might be passing you by.