The Weather Man Will Lie – Well, Maybe Just Not Tell the Whole Truth – But You Still Can Catch Plenty of Fish
Day 1: Bad Weather, Great Snapper Fishing Trip at Alabama’s Gulf Coast This Summer
The weatherman was calling for 8- to 10-foot seas in Orange Beach, Alabama. Most of the charter boats in Orange Beach had cancelled their trips, except for Captain Grady Sowards, captain of the “Gulf Winds II” party boat out of SanRoc Cay Marina. Captain Sowards said, “We’re going to go ahead and try to fish, and if the weather gets too rough, we will come back to shore.” So, with 35 souls aboard, we headed out of Perdido Pass for the red-snapper-rich waters of Alabama’s Gulf Coast. The seas were a little choppy, but Captain Sowards kept the bow of the boat pointed in the direction of the wind, so there was very-little rocking and rolling.
About 10-miles offshore, the waves flattened-out, and Captain Sowards explained, “The weatherman gives a report for the weather that will be sometime during the day, and usually the report is for the afternoon. Therefore, this morning I drove the boat to the east to fish. Then if we do have high seas and rough weather in the afternoon, we’ll be coming in with the sea and not against it, which will mean a smooth ride for us.”
When we got out 20-miles from shore to the underwater artificial reefs that Sowards wanted to fish that day, we had a gently-blowing breeze and a sea that rolled very little. The children, the senior citizens and a good mix of in-between ages on the “Gulf Winds II” caught plenty of red snapper. Red-snapper season off Alabama’s Gulf Coast has been phenomenal this summer with boat after boat coming in with catches of snapper weighing 12- to 20-pounds plus. On this trip, anglers caught not only snapper, but we also had a school of dolphins (mahi-mahi) circle the boat, and several of those fish were caught.
Whether you are fishing by yourself or have a party of 10 or more, you can buy a ticket on the “Gulf Winds II” and go deep-sea fishing that day. A snapper trip or any type of reef fish trip is often called a bottom-fishing trip. When the deck hand was giving-out instructions as we prepared to fish, he explained, “Don’t drop your line all the way to the bottom, and then reel it up 2 or 3 feet. If you do, you’re only going to catch small snapper. Instead, let your line down for about an 8-count. Then your bait will be 30- or 40-feet off the bottom. The bigger snapper will be holding high in the water, and the little snapper will be holding next to the bottom. You may not get as many bites keeping your bait high in the water as the people who fish on the bottom do. But the fish you catch high in the water will be much bigger than the snapper you catch fishing on the bottom.”
As I observed the fishermen on our boat, I watched some drop their baits all the way to the bottom and come one to two turns of the reel off the bottom. I watched other anglers as they mentally counted down and stopped the descent of their baits after an 8-count. The bottom-fishermen caught snapper weighing 2 to 4 pounds. The fishermen who stopped their baits from falling after an 8-count were catching snapper that weighed 8 to 12 pounds. With a two-snapper limit, the bottom fishermen were taking home from 4 to 8 pounds of snapper, and the anglers who fished high in the water were taking 16 to 24 pounds of snapper home. The difference in the catch between the fishermen who fished where the captain had told them to fish and the fishermen who fished on the bottom was dramatic. “Some people just can’t stand to not get a bite, while they are waiting on the big bite, and those people catch the little snapper,” Captain Sowards explained. “The people who will fish high in the water and wait on the big bite consistently will catch the big snapper.”
After everyone on the boat had caught their snapper on this 6-hour trip, plus some bonus fish, we headed back to port at SanRoc Cay. As the weatherman had predicted, the seas were starting to build, coming from the east. However, because Captain Sowards had gone out to fish from the east that morning when the weather was relatively calm, we came back to the port of SanRoc Cay in Orange Beach, Ala., from the west. So, the boat was moving with the waves, instead of against them, and we enjoyed a smooth ride.
Two things I learned on this trip:
When the weatherman gives a report, he is reporting on conditions that could happen at some time during the day. Often the report he is giving is for the afternoon not the morning. Therefore if you hear a report for bad weather, you may be able to fish in the mornings before the bad weather hits as we did.
When fishing for red snapper and many-other species of fish in the Gulf of Mexico, put your baits in the depth of water that the captain recommends. When the captain tells you how high in the water the fish are holding, he is looking at a depth finder that shows him the bottom, the fish holding between the bottom and the surface, and where the most fish are holding, particularly the big fish. If you fish the depth that the captain recommends, you will catch more and bigger fish than if you fish on the bottom.
When you go fishing out of Orange Beach with a charter-boat captain, he wants you to catch the most fish and the biggest fish you can catch. Therefore, if you fish the way he tells you to fish, you drastically increase your odds of catching some of the biggest fish you have ever caught in your life. For more info on fishing with Captain Sowards, go to www.reelsurprisecharters.com or call 251-981-7173.
For more information about fishing at Orange Beach, Ala., go to http://www.orangebeach.com/fishing/biting/.