Overnight trip leads to quite a haul of snapper for five-member fishing crew

When Sam Weller returned from an offshore trip last Saturday morning, he immediately sent a picture to his older brother Noah.

“I’ve taken a little sabbatical from social media,” Sam Weller explained. “I told Noah to let the people know the fishing was good.”

The fishing was so good, it almost didn’t seem real. The group of five fishing with Sam Weller caught the equivalent of the offshore snapper slam for the Gulf of Mexico. Red snapper, mangrove snapper, yellowtail snapper, mutton snapper, lane snapper, vermillion snapper and topped off with a prized cubera snapper.

Sam Weller joined his uncles Ronnie Weller and Champ Weller with Gary and Brady Hummer aboard Ronnie’s 33-foot Boston Whaler on Oct. 11 to fish overnight for the first weekend of red snapper mini season. They left around 4:30 p.m. and after picking up a few pinfish traps were ready with a variety of bait. The nearly full moon would mean active fish in the nighttime hours, exactly what the crew wanted.

“We headed about 50 miles out to 130 feet of water. It was a big piece of hard bottom with big breaks in it, an area people fish all the time,” Sam Weller said. “We started fishing around 8 p.m.”

When they started fishing, Weller noticed a problem. The strong east wind had conditions rough, and the full moon’s ripping current was going in the opposite direction. This forced him to change how he would prefer to fish.

“We couldn’t chum and couldn’t jighead fish like we normally do. Everything was going up under the boat toward the anchor. Pretty much all our fishing and bites were on the bottom with heavy weights. The fish weren’t congregated since we couldn’t chum.”

But the fishing was steady from the start and the crew kept pulling in varieties of nice snapper adding them to the growing fish box.

“They never really fired off, it was just a consistent bite pretty much until the sun rose,” Sam Weller said. “After we caught a bunch of mangroves, yellowtails and red snapper we were joking about catching a mutton. Next thing I know I caught one and we all started laughing.

“Then we joked about catching a cubera and one came up after eating a big grass grunt!”

With two mutton snapper, a dozen yellowtails, one cubera, eight red snapper, lane snapper, vermillion snapper and the rest of their five-man snapper limit made up of mangrove snapper, they headed home shortly after the bite stopped when the sun rose. It wasn’t easy as the rough conditions made going east slow Saturday morning.

“It was rough, but the bite was totally worth it. We were only able to go about 20 miles per hour toward home. Luckily we weren’t in a hurry since it was early.”

Sam Weller with a pair of mutton snapper from a successful overnight offshore trip Oct. 12. Photo provided

Like most anglers looking to take advantage of the second weekend of red snapper mini season, the Wellers had to cancel their offshore plans this weekend due to Tropical Storm Nestor. Very few got out last weekend due to rough conditions, and unfortunately long-range forecasts for next weekend are already looking windy.

It’s not unprecedented for a fishing season to be extended as a result of tropical storms, so there is hope for anglers. In 2016, the June federal red snapper season was extended two days after Tropical Storm Colin.

Later in 2016, Hurricane Hermine led to an additional seven fishing days for state anglers. That extension pushed red snapper season into late November and included the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Alan Bellittera is the print liaison for the Bradenton Herald and also helps with breaking news and high school sports coverage. Alan graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2000 and is a lifelong Florida resident.