Last Friday I called up my brother to see if he was interested in a possible kayak trip the next day. He responded with:

“Well, I was actually thinking of taking my boat offshore…wanna go?”

Does a bear…Nevermind. “Absolutely”

After buying some frozen bait, I met him at his house at 0630 the next morning. In my haste the evening before, I wasn’t exactly sure what to bring so I practically brought everything I had: Enough rods for eight people and chum to last us until 2013. Once there, we loaded up his truck and headed out.

Problems started early when my brother told me that he couldn’t get hold of the marina to tell them to put the boat in the water. Rather than go pick up the pinfish trap that had been set the night before, we were forced to make a detour and stop by the marina to tell them firsthand. After telling them, we drove off to get the live bait. Sure enough, we pull the pinfish trap out of the water and…No pinfish. Just some old stinky squid left over as bait.

Not wanting to waste anymore time, we headed back to the marina and got onto the boat. My brother’s friend Lee was tagging along on this trip and he brought two more rods to add to the arsenal of fishing gear we had accumulated. With the boat loaded up, bait in the cooler, and gas in the tanks, we undocked and headed out into the bay.

 The water was perfectly calm and aside from a few patches of fog, the weather couldn’t have been better. About two miles out, Lee mentioned something to my brother about oil. My brother abruptly stopped the boat as he suddenly remembered that he’d left the oil needed for the boat in the bed of the truck. He checked the oil levels and realized they were quite low. The decision was soon made to just motor back to dock, and pick up the oil. No sense in going 10 miles offshore to suddenly realize you’re completely out of oil. No sooner had we turned the boat around then the alarms started ringing…No oil. We puttered the rest of the way back to dock, being forced to listen to the alarms as they blared across Pensacola bay. After what felt like an eternity (the alarms sounded much like a fire alarm in an empty hallway…which couldn’t be turned off), we got to dock and refilled the oil.

Back out on the water again, we soon ran about eight miles offshore. As luck would have it, the one spot we decided to fish already had someone fishing on it. Not caring at this point, we decided to fish it anyways and after seeing the wreck on the bottom machine, I threw out the wreck bouy.

We soon turned around to pick up the bouy and successfully ran it over…tangling the line in the prop during the process. Off came everything valuable I didn’t want to lose, and I soon found myself straddling one of the outboards, tilted downward at a 45 degree angle, and had someone holding onto my belt as I tried to free the line. After quite a bit of stretching, cursing, and maneuvering we freed the line and were -finally- able to set up anchor. Good thing we brought beer.

The next three hours consisted of possibly the best Red Snapper fishing I’ve ever been on a boat for. I managed to chum them up directly behind the boat and freeline pieces of chum for hook ups. I watched as snapper the size of “Welcome Home” mats cruised around behind the engines. My brother and I both hooked these behemoths and were soon cut off.

Everything worked on these snapper: Frozen Cigar Minnows, cut squid, jigging, live bait (we caught some finally). My brother caught one of the biggest snapper I’ve ever seen on a jig and I proceeded to accidentally break him off as I helped land the fish boatside. In these three hours, we easily caught over 30 Red Snapper with only 2 or 3 under the legal limit. And we were so upset we could have cried.

Why cry? You ask.

Snapper season lasts from the beginning of June until the end of July here in Florida. To make matters worse, you can’t keep more than two per person. So we were forced to throw every single one of these fish back into the water. Huge snapper. Bigger than any I’ve ever caught. And each one got returned. We almost didn’t catch anything else for all the Red Snapper. My personal opinion is that the Red Snapper population is doing MUCH better than the state thinks. Flawed/inaccurate data has managed to reduce recreational limits and seasons to the point that it’s almost not worth it to chase Red Snapper. Are these laws good for the Red Snapper? Well of course…but now there seems to be too many of them.

It really is a strange feeling to be upset as you pull in one huge Red Snapper after another, but we found ourselves getting more and more upset every time we landed one. Of course, we could have been catching nothing, so really the complaints were kept to a minimum.

To add to the endless amount of snapper, I managed to catch one Mingo that was too small, one Triggerfish that was too small, and a Bonito. I finally broke out the GoPro and shot a quick video of catching a snapper on a jig.

Well over a hundred pounds of fish, and we’d still yet to put anything into the cooler. The decision was made to move to a different wreck.

Once there, we had a flawless repeat of our wreck bouy malfunction and I was once again forced to climb onto the outboard to free the line. We soon anchored up and realized that our drift was wrong. We pulled anchor (in 100ft of water) and tried again. This time we were spot on, but noticed that the anchor was now dragging. We were, however, moving very slowly so we decided to fish. Lee dropped a live ruby red lips down to the bottom and shortly thereafter caught an enormous Red Snapper.

Notice someone else’s rig broken off in its mouth

A few minutes later, we dropped a frozen cigar minnow down and I hooked something that gave me a run for my money. It was a relatively short fight, but I realized how out of shape I was afterward. The fish nearly whooped me and I was relieved to see the gaff stick this Amberjack.

With a fish -finally- in the cooler, we called it a day and ran back to dock.

Even though we couldn’t keep any of the Red Snapper we caught, I had an absolute blast. It was one of the best offshore fishing trips I’ve ever had and I really look forward to the June season. Then all I’ll have to do is beg my brother for another trip! Maybe then catching those fish won’t hurt quite so bad.