With the winter weather well behind us, the southeast spring winds should hopefully provide plenty of windows for anglers to split the jetties in search of some drag pulling monsters that can only be found offshore. In my last outing the blue water was pushed as far inshore as the “double yellow” rigs found twenty-two miles east of the Port “A” jetties. As spring continues into early summer, this blue water should push further toward land bringing with it a healthy supply of offshore species. This is my favorite time of year to go rig hopping in anything with a reliable motor, provided the weather is right.
Big kingfish will come close to shore with the blue water and can be caught right outside the jetties during the right conditions. They will usually hang on the line formed by the muddy outgoing tidewater and the blue offshore water, a.k.a. the tide-rip. Some common ways of catching these drag peeling donkeys are by trolling lures, trolling dead baits, drifting or live baiting. If you are not getting any bites it is generally advisable to work your way offshore until you find better water conditions. If the bite is not on at the jetties, chances are the kings are hanging around some near shore rig and it is just a matter of looking until you find them. Common lures used for kingfish are the time-proven Russell Lures, gold, blue or silver, Yo-Zuri Hydro-Mags or Rapala lures usually silver and blue, green mackeral, red and white or purple and black. Bump trolling or simply drifting dead baits such as Menhaden, Ribbonfish, Spanish Sardines or Goggle eyes is another effective method of catching Kingfish. You want to rig the Ribbonfish on three hook Kingfish leaders, but the other baits can be fished with a single hook haywire twisted with wire to a barrel swivel. One tip for more effective drifting or trolling with a single hook is to hook the bait from the lower jaw up through the top of the head as far forward and centered as you can, as this gives the bait a more natural presentation and lowers the chances of the bait spinning. If you want to live bait for Kingfish more inshore, common Pin Perch or freshly caught Ballyhoo work very well. The best overall live bait for kingfish, in this angler’s humble opinion, is the Blue Runner or Hard-tail. These small bait fish are usually found further offshore (generally at least twenty miles or more) and can be caught on shrimp or if you want to catch more than one at a time the Sabiki rig is very effective. If you are at a rig where you can catch Blue Runners, chances are the Kingfish aren’t very far away. As with smaller dead baits, live baiting can be very effective with a single hook rig, only with live bait you want to hook the baitfish in shoulder or just ahead of the dorsal fin. If you are consistently missing fish, a treble hook stinger towards the bait’s tail will quickly put an end to any bait-snatching tendencies. All of the tackle and dead bait listed above can be found at Port “A” Outfitters, be sure and stop by their store before heading out as they are more than happy to give you any recent fishing reports as well as advice or information on any of the mentioned techniques, or visit their website at www.islandtackle.com.
Another hard-fighting species that can be found relatively close to shore this time of year is the ling a.k.a. cobia or crab eater. These are one of my favorite offshore fish to catch as they are by nature a curious fish, often times taking anglers by surprise by swimming directly up to the boat to check things out. This will usually send all anglers aboard into a mad scramble to the boat’s live well. When they do come up to the boat, they will often take a live shrimp or perch, but they can also be enticed to eat Ribbonfish, spoon or spinner bait. Since they don’t always swim right up to the boat, jigging or deep dropping dead bait is another effective method of catching ling. I prefer to use yellow or white Bucktail jigs, Diamond jigs, or yellow, white, orange, or purple Snapper Slappers when jigging. When using dead bait, I prefer to use a two to six ounce weight above a snelled two-hook snapper leader baited with a Squid, Menhaden, or Sardine. Simply drop the jig or bait to the bottom and work it to the surface covering the entire water column, these active fish will generally take the bait somewhere in the middle of the column.
Found a bit further offshore this time of year, Red Snapper, Amberjack and Grouper can be caught at rigs and wrecks offshore of the Port Aransas jetties. Red Snapper will eat just about anything from Squid, Sardines, Menhaden, and Ballyhoo to Diamond jigs, Bucktail jigs and of course Snapper Slappers. Amberjack and Grouper generally seem to prefer live Perch, live Blue Runners or live Rainbow Runners, but they can also be caught on Diamond Jigs, Bucktail Jigs and Snapper Slappers. One of the newest jigs at Port “A” Outfitters that is being used for catching Amberjack, Grouper, and Snapper are the new Shimano Butterfly jigs. These heavy jigs can be fished in a swift current and have a unique darting action that seems to entice virtually any game fish. These jigs also employ a revolutionary new solid ring system attached to the split ring that allows the angler to tie the main line virtually directly to the hook or hooked fish circumventing any opportunity for the split ring to fail, which is an important and unique feature when battling hard fighting A.J.’s and Grouper. If you’re looking to get into some heavy offshore fishing action but you just need a ride, check out www.iceddownsportfishing.com. Operated by Captain Nathan Forbes, this clean, comfortable ride with an experienced crew has already had an excellent beginning to a stellar season. During the heavy Wahoo run earlier this year, they came back one day with fifteen Wahoo all over thirty pounds, and they have also had consistent Kingfish, Amberjack and Grouper catches as well.
If hooking fish doesn’t appeal to you or you are simply mad at them, like me, the spring flounder run is well underway. Contact Captain J.D. “Tray” Clark III at: (361) 960-4222, owner/operator of “Backstabbin” Charters to get yourself into an exciting sport and on board a Cadillac of a flounder boat the island infamous “Backstabber”.
As with anytime of year, the spring weather can be unpredictable. It is always a good idea to check all safety equipment aboard your vessel as well as the NOAA weather report before leaving the dock. Though these weather reports have been proven at times to be inaccurate, there is always and only one true way to really find out. Good luck, have fun and don’t forget to take a kid fishing.
Capt. Peter Young