Fishing with JRL Outboards RPI logo Grouper

Fishing with JRL Outboards

The author (blue cap), the Cap'n, and the reason.

At JRL Outboards, outboard motors are just a means to an end ... they provide the power to get us out to where we can fish! On this page you will find a realistic fishing report for the Tampa Bay north to Hudson area, as well as information about custom built rods and tackle ranging from ultra light to the monster offshore stuff.

Fishing Report

Updated 04/20/03.

April 15 and 17, 2003 ... Fishing. Yeah, I think I remember that ... something to do with lines and reels and rods and bait and stuff. Wayne actually got so sick of lookin' at June 2002, that he pulled this page from the site. If you think HE was disgusted, this author wasn't real happy either ... damn near a year without going out once. Even the Cap'n only went a few times, and that ain't like either of us. But ... we're back.

You been reading dem lying fishing reports in the papers? Birds divin bait pods everywhere, just a mile or so off the beaches. Sky-rocketing kings everywhere! Grouper being trolled up right regular in 25 feet of water. They're sellin you bait, gas, oil, and rigs folks. Cap'n gets all fired up readin about those sky-rocketing kings, and off we head, trolling rigs, planers, plugs, and spoons all ready to rock. "Thot we was grouper fishin?", asks I. "Yeah," says the Cap'n, "but we're gonna get us some of those kings on the way." Uh huh.

Have I ever mentioned I hate freakin trolling? If you're into drinking beer and boat rides, trolling is the way to go ... I'm out there to fish damn it. But an inspired Cap'n is an immovable object ... we were gonna by-God troll on the way out. Two mile west of Anclote I set up the rigs and kicked back. There were no bait pods, no birds, and the only thing I saw "sky-rocket" was a bored looking mullet. Six mile later, I convinced the Cap'n that trolling sux. In came the rigs, and of we headed to (finally) fish.

We're roughly ten miles out, in the 35 to 40 foot stuff. We anchored up on one of our numbers, fish finder showed fish, and down we went. Did I mention it was full moon? Tide runnin like a mother and holding the boat sideways to the seas, which were four footers. Rock and roll boys. No grouper, but lots of sea bass. Pull anchor and head deeper. More sea bass. And deeper. More sea bass. And deeper.

In 65 feet, we finally started putting fish in the box. Decent sized grouper and three sharks made the trip worthwhile. On one hole, I got slammed by an obviously short grouper and got him 15 feet off the bottom, and then SUPERSLAM!!!! I heaved and strained and cussed whatever it was for 45 minutes, and got it within 15 feet of the boat. BIG, flat, round looking thing I ain't never seen before. Damn thing saw the boat and went DOWN! FAST! Srtipped 50 feet of line of my drag (set dead tight) like it was nothing. Then, it was gone. I started back up and still had the grouper, which was flat out mauled, with gouges scraped out of both sides. I dunno what had him, and ain't real sure I wanted to find out.

That was on the 15th ... we liked it so much we did it again on the 17th. This time Cap'n listened and we left the trolling rigs behind. Blasted out at first light right out to the 65 foot stuff where we left off. No grunts, no sea bass ... grouper. Big, slammin, keeper grouper. And, as we moved deeper, lo and behold ... you know those kings that are sitting right off the beaches? You'll find 'em ... 32 miles or so off the beaches. As fast as we could sail a pinner out on the free line, big smoker kings would nail it. We limited on grouper, and put five kings over four feet in the box.

Get Wayne to hook you up and get out there ... but go deep young man, go deep. And keep your eyes on this page ... I'm going back out this week ... there comes a time when you just gotta tell the boss that workin' ain't that important.

June 2, 2002 ... GGRRRRR!!!! Lack of fishing sux, bigtime. I haven't written 'cause I ain't been. Workin' has been gettin in the way, and when I ain't workin', the Captain has been, or it's been blowing like it's April or something. The Captain HAS managed to get out a couple of times since the last update, and reports one word ... GUMBO. That's right folks, up until very recently the waters out to 55 feet were nuthin but that ugly, rig-tanglin gumbo crap.

However, that seems to have passed, and the Cap and one of our regulars and two old buggars headed out this past Friday. The regular had a long shot pay off (he played the opposite stock option that I played, go figure), and bought the Cap a new toy ... a digital fish finder ... and had it installed. Cap won't give up his old white-line for which he now pays PREMIUM dollars for paper (when it can even be found). But off they headed with white-line and digital both crankin. And they found fish. The advantage to the digital vs. the white line, is two-fold ... first, when the white-line shows fish, you got no clue as to what they are. Grouper? Grunt? Seabass? I dunno ... white-line shows "fish". Digital shows big vs. little fish. Boy does that cut down on wasted stops.

The second advantage is that the digital records "at speed", allowing us to get a picture of what lies below on the fly. I have always suspected, that as we go that 1.4 miles to the next number, that we are crossing right over excellent bottom. Now we could go that 1.4 miles at no-wake speed and run the white-line out of paper, or ... hey, we could use this new-fangled digital and find all kinds of new numbers. I just may drag the Cap into the 21st century yet.

Anyway, Friday saw the guys haul in their limit, fishing out around 22 miles NW of Anclote. They had so much fun, they tried it again on Sunday. Calm seas and off they headed at 5400 rpm back to the same numbers.

Problem with fishing weekends, particularly Sundays (and on calm seas to boot), is that everybody and his brother are out there. 14' boats with no business being out 22 miles were sitting on the Cap's favorite numbers, and every other number the Cap had within a 5 mile radius. Ah ... but they got this really spiffy, state-of-the-art digital fish finder and could find new numbers! All day, $75 gas, flat of bait, and several new numbers (showing grouper damn it!) and they boated exactly one keeper.

Worse yet ... Cap goes to set the hook an a 14" red grouper, and his newly wound rod (the late Ray's rig below) went "SNAP"! Some days it's just best to stay at home. But that won't stop us ... we'll be going out sometime this week.

January 16, 2002 ... gotta give 'em credit ... hubby and wife team (see Jan 9, 2002 below), got back up on that horse after an ugly day the week before. Hubby had his rod replaced, and in a wise move, bought wifey a replacement for the one she lost overboard, and out we went yet again.

Pinfish? @#$!! the pinfish! After last week we knew better. Straight out to the 60' stuff, and lo and behold, the ledges weren't hiding ... we not only found them, they stayed put for a change.

We started on the same ledge where, the week before, H & W had left $400 in tackle. We had cracked open a brand new flat of sardines for this trip. Sardines on growth hormones. MONSTER sardines. Break in thirds sardines. Wifey, on first bait down hits bottom, tightens up the slack, and WHAM! 14 lb gag. Hubby? First bait, SMASH! 22 lb gag. Cap'n? First bait? SLAM! Nice little 12 lb gag. (Ok ... now for the rest of the story) Me? First bait? Tap, tappity tap tap ... no bait. Repeat and stir. All damn day long. Wifey, WHAM! Hubby, SMASH! Cap'n, SLAM! Me ... tap, tappity, tap, tap ... no bait.

By 11:30 we had limited. All gags ... nary the first grunt. All big fish, with the largest going over 30 lbs.

Me? ... I caught one fish all day ... but you know that over 30 lb'r I mentioned? hehehe.

January 9, 2002 ... first trip out (for me) in the new year! Me, the Cap'n, and a husband and wife team with brand new xmas-present rigs. We made the obligatory stop for live bait ... where the heck do pinfish go this time of year? If I were floating a live shrimp for redfish, the pinners would be drivin me nuts. But, when I want to grab a couple dozen for grouper bait ... dem bastids disappear! Fine. No live bait.

We headed for our favorite area numbers in the 40 to 50' range, anchored up (hehehe ... winds and tides cooperated for once ... I knew it was gonna be a bad day), and nada ... not a bump, tap, smash ... nothing. I looked at the white line and the bottom was good ... showed fish all over the place ... nada. Fine.

Three more numbers in the same area, and ... nada. Zip. Bumpkus.

Cap'n, being the ever-patient man that he is, said, well ... I can't really tell you what he said, but it wasn't pretty. The local rag was reporting fish in the 60' depth, but of course, we never believe those lying, weasily-eyed reporters, but considering we couldn't lose a frozen sardine unless it just melted off, we pulled anchor and headed deeper to the ledges.

I want to know, how ledges, made of rock, can show up clear as can be when you jug them, and then disappear completely when you go back over the jug? These tricksey-bastid ledges, flat get up and move 30 feet when they see a jug weight comin at 'em. Five anchor pulls and we finally got on one that looked good on the recorder. An hour later and bored to death from thawing sardines, we headed to another number.

Remember the hubby and wife with the new rigs? Our next number was much like the last ... an hour of soaking and thawing sardines (ho ... hum). You tend to get so bored that you aren't paying attention. Wifey, with brand spanking new rig, was quasi-falling-asleep when the hog hit. Snatched that rig plumb out of her hands, and over the side it went.

Before she could even say "(well, you know what she was about to say)", Hubby gets slammed on his brand new rig. "SLAM", says the fish. "HEAVE", says the Hubby. "CRACK!!!!", says the new rod.

We broke out the backup rigs after the condolences were duly given, and everybody went back down. Nary another bite for the remainder of that stop.

Skunked. Nary a grunt. Nary a grouper. Nary a stinking sea bass. No triggers. Nor any kind of sea critter of any kind. Nada. Zip. Bumpkus. Drat. And two perfectly good rigs shot to hell ... some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you.

December 6, 2001 ... I have finally figured out the meaning of the expression, "seas 2 feet or less" ... it means they forgot to tell you the rest of the story ... "seas 2 feet or less ... than freakin 20!". "Light and variable chop on Bay and inland waters", means you are going to get beat to death offshore. "Winds 5 to 10 out of the NE", means Don't Leave the Dock ... it's gonna blow all day.

We went out on Thursday the sixth, amidst such reports ... it blew all day, we got beat to death, and seas were less than 20 feet. We shoulda known better ... we stopped at daybreak in our favorite pinfish spot inside Three Rooker and anchored up to catch bait. Wind was blowing like a mutha and seas were at 2 feet then. Tide was runnin strong in exactly opposite direction to the winds. We chummed (once we figured out the tides). Somewhere, close to the Power Plant where our chum finally settled, I'm sure there was a pinfish frenzy going on ... 45 minutes of serious bait catching later, we headed out with 3 grunts, 1 pinner, and 1 sand perch as the ONLY live bait we could boat.

Since we have been having great success in the 40 to 50 foot depth W SW of Anclotte, that's where we headed ... slowly ... took better than an hour to get there. First stop, we anchored directly into the seas ... only to find the seas, wind, and tides put us 30 degrees off the jug. Fine. Pull anchor and try again. Got it ... five foot from the jug! Way to go Cap'n. Oops, 10 feet, 15 ... 25 ... 50 ... we hooked! Yeah, anchor is hooked on the stuff we're supposed to be fishing. Sigh. Pull anchor, stir and repeat. Again. And again. Finally we hooked and were reasonably close to the jug.

Rock and roll boys and giirls, let's fish. Remember the 30 degrees I mentioned? Means we are mostly sideways to the seas ... "rock and roll" were the operative words. Seas were 4 to 5 feet at this point, but the wind was just getting started. By the third stop, seas were 5 to 7 feet, and that rock and roll stuff was getting dangerous.

We did manage to catch fish, particularly the morning bite ... but damn ... it sure was a lot like hard work. We boxed no hogs, but we did leave quite a few of them out there ... I hooked one monster twice on a new number we found quite by accident ... this was more fish than I have fought in the last 2 years. First time I hooked him, I never really had him "hooked" ... stubborn bastid simply refused to let go of the bait! I got him a good 20 feet off the bottom before he decided to spit. Five minutes later, he hit again and this time I hooked him solid. Managed to keep him turned for all of about five seconds before he broke me off.

Today is a day of healing. I'm bruised, bleeding, and very sore from the rocking and rolling and falling into the bait and pulling anchor all day. But tomorrow? There's a new hole to fish, and one monster mutha grouper with my name on him. However, I will not go on the internet and look up the weather forecasts, I will not listen to the reports on TV. I will walk my ass outside, wet my finger and hold it up in the air. "Less than 20" is not a good thing.

Novermber 20, 2001 ... This time by gosh, we were going to do it right. None of this "get on the water at the crack of noon" crap. Four serious fishermen, heading out before dawn on an all day grouper trip!

Two of our serious buds cancelled at the last minute and we scrambled for warm bods. We settled for two brothers-in-law of the Cap'n, neither one with any fishin skills, and one had to be back on shore by 2:00. O.K. ... two serious fishermen and two warm bodies headed out before dawn for a 1/2 day grouper trip beats not fishing.

A quick stop at first light for a couple of dozen pinfish, and off we went. The seas were perfect, not quite glassy ... smooth with just enough wind ripple to knock the glass off ... but flat enough to run wide open. We headed out to the 40 to 45' waters due west of Anclotte and anchored up on some decent bottom ... not one of our best numbers in the area, but good stuff any way. Anchoring up was fun ... no wind, but stiff current ... three anchor pulls later, we figured out the heading and got on the jug. Then the wind picked up just enough to blow us off the jug. Finally, we anchored straight down, and pulled up the jug.

No sooner we get settled in, we see the Rum Runner II heading out to deeper water. (Wonder what Captain Ed Peters knows that we don't?) Oh well, we're on a hole damnit, and we're gonna fish it.

Rookie number 1 was being grunt tapped to death, and every tap brought forth the question, "Was that grouper?". "No Rick, that was grunt ... you'll know when you get a grouper." His fifth bait down he actually caught a 9" grunt, and heaving for all he was worth, he panted, "I got grouper!" ... sigh. Rookie number 2 was getting slammed, but never lifted his rod. "I'm rocked up," said he everytime he got slammed (and then broke off). "You got to come up on him harder than he's going down ... get him off the bottom or he'll rock you," said I.

Me? I was catching squat. I couldn't lose a bait. When I did start catchin fish, I came up with a trigger, 3 mother-in-laws, a sand perch, a pilot, 2 lizzard fish, a small flounder, a couple of baby grunts, a small sea bass, 2 puffers, a funky looking sponge, and one nice hunk of coral.

Meanwhile, between "Is that grouper?" and "I got rocked up" and my "@@#@@%$!@! puffer!", the Cap'n was nailing gag after gag. One of our long time fishin buds died last year ... nice old ex-fireman in his mid-eighties who went with us whenever he could. He "willed" his custom rod to the Cap'n, and the Cap'n had it reworked ... all new guides, wraps, windings, new handles, and reworked Penn reel with new 50 lb test line, and this was the first trip out for the late Ray's reworked rig. I dunno if it was the 50 lb line (I use 60 and the Cap'n usually uses 80) or whether Ray was looking over the Cap'n's shoulder, but man was he catching fish.

Every stop was the same ... "Is this grouper?", "I got rocked up", "@@#@@%$!@! puffer!", and the Cap'n using the late Ray's reworked rig, boxing fish after fish after fish. In fairness, I did catch a few shorts and a red grouper or two, Rookie number 2 finally figured out he had to come up with the rod and caught a nice boxer, and Rookie number 1 got nailed ... he had just pulled in another grunt (thinking it was grouper of course), and I sent him down one more time with a mid-sized pinner. No warning ... just pure SLAM! that saw him holding on for dear life. He got that fish turned and got a few cranks on him before the fish decided it was time to get to that rock hole of his. Rookie number 1 was white-faced and strainin hard when that fish went back down and rocked him up. "THAT ... was grouper," said the Cap'n.

Get out there folks, the grouper bite is on.

Novermber 17, 2001 ... Freakin wind. On the days where work hasn't conflicted with fishing, the wind has been blowin. Fine. The local rags are braggin about inshore this, trout that, redfish and snook everywhere ... we'll just break out the canoe, paddle the canals, and drown a few shrimp. First stop, our favorite dock ... zip. 2nd stop, our second favorite dock ... nada. 3rd stop, four corners ... 1 stinking 6 inch drum. Headed out to the flats to a couple of "productive" oyster bars ... um ... the wind said, "go home", and we listened.

Novermber 10, 2001 ... Inspired by the great day on Thursday (see below) me, the Cap'n, and his girlfriend (a frail thing couldn't weigh more than 90 lbs), headed back out to the same area numbers determined to fill the box with highly edible gags. The gal friend wasn't into getting on the water before dawn, so we got a somewhat late start ... by 10:30 we were headin out the channel (sigh).

The Cap'n, in a moment of drunken pride the night before, had shared his best number with one of his cronies. Sure enough as we neared the number ... there sat his bud, anchored up on our hole and fishin' his butt off. Ever met one of those unlucky bastids who couldn't catch clap in a whorehouse? This poor fella had been there since 6:30, and hadn't caught the first fish. We anchored 100' south of him. First bait down (half a frozen sardine), tap, SLAM! ... 27 inch fish. Cap'n goes down with a live pinner ... SLAM (no tap, just SLAM) ... 26 incher. The gal friend meanwhile, was getting her sardines cleaned off every trip down, and I was getting a bit impatient baiting her hook for her. Being as we had been out 2 days before and were frustratingly short on sardines, I baited her up with a chunk of cut grunt, hooked thru the bone ... figured she wouldn't catch anything, but would keep bait on her hook for a while so I could get back to catching fish. While all this hook baitin was going on, the Cap'n had caught 3 more ... 2 shorts and a minimal boxer.

No sooner did the frail one get her chunk of grunt to the bottom ... SLAM!!!!!. Frail, 90 lb women have no business hookin freight trains ... it just ain't fair. The Cap'n was closer than I, and managed to pull her back in the boat before she got too wet, and to her credit, she held on to the rig. I got there in time to lift the rod for her, and fish was still on. With me holdin the rod up, the Cap'n holdin her in the boat, and both of us screamin, "get a crank on him, get him off the bottom" ... the frail one, scared, wet, and with aching arms, managed to whip that fish. After netting the 37 incher and hauling it up to the box, I turned to find her sprawled on the bottom of the boat, crying and cussin us both. "Take me home now, gdi!", cries she, "if you stupid muthas want to kill yourselves out here ... fine ... but I'm going home!"

The Cap'n, torn between great fishing and the prospect of never gettin anymore of the frail one, starting pullin in the rigs while I pulled anchor. Personally, I'd have opted to keep fishin. Oh well, it was 30 minutes of great fishing.

As we idled by the Cap'n's bud (who still was fishless), I couldn't resist holdin up the hoss and hollerin, "We limited and are goin in ... good luck!".

November 8, 2001 ... First, an apology to those who enjoyed reading these "real" reports of what is happening in our waters ... somewhere between me workin (boss has a lot of damned gall), and Wayne selling Yamahas and doing his own website work, the "Fishing Report" part of this website got left out. That's not to say I haven't been fishing ... I just haven't been writing about it. We will try to do better.

I can sum up this year (2001) from March thru October with one word ... "sux". Didn't seem to matter much where we went, short red grouper and grunts everywhere. Several all day trips out to our best numbers saw us coming back in skunked or with one fish in the box. (SIGH). Waste of bait, ice, oil, gas, and time (beer was not wasted, trust me).

However, November is here and the gags are biting! (FINALLY!!! ... WHEEEEEE!) Thursday the 8th, we headed out to the hard bottom W of Anclotte (buying into the fishing report that the gags were in 35' of water). Don't buy into the local fishing report ... you'll be sea-bassed to death. We headed W-SW from there into the 40 to 50' area numbers for our second stop out. All bites were gag, and we were getting slammed, no matter what bait went down. Hell, we'd mis-anchor and be 100' off our jug and still catch fish.

Each stop was similar ... tap, tap, SLAM, followed by 10 minutes of frenzy, with frozen sardines, cut grunt fillets, cut ladyfish, and live pinfish all faring equally well. As fast and furious as the action was, after 10 minutes, it would flat shut down. Move to the next number, stir, and repeat.

No real hoss freight trains ... most fish were 18 to 25 inches, although we did box 2 fish over 30 inches. Most holes saw ONLY gags ... none of the obligatory grunts, and only 1 red grouper all day. We boxed 15 fish, and released 50 or 60 "shorts". One hole produced 3 "tagged" fish ... my first experience with such. All 3 were short, but we wrote the tag numbers down and have notified the source. Turns out they were tagged 3 months before, and released less than half a mile from where we caught 'em.

We always free-line a pinner behind the boat, in hopes of snagging a straggler King, or some other such schooling monster. This is usually an exercise in futility, but we always feel obligated to give it a try.

I had just thrown the free-lined pinner out, and went down with a sardine with my grouper rig. I got slammed as soon as I got to the bottom, as did the guy across from me (our free-line rig was between us). As we were both occupied, SCREAM! goes the drag on the free line. I passed my grouper rig to the guy behind me (just as he got slammed with his own gag), and set the drag on the runnin' King, who had managed to wrap around the jug line. Fortunately, he cut right thru the jug line on his first run, but then headed straight past the boat towards the bow and the anchor line.

I fought him out of the anchor line twice and got a good look at him before he saw the boat and got pissed ... this was a smoker, somewhat longer than our 5' fish box would hold. He saw the boat and made his final run towards the bow, and there was no stoppin' him this time ... one wrap around the anchor line and he was gone. Oh well ... was fun while it lasted.

By 2:30 the 16 inch fish were beginning to feel like hosses, and the bite had slowed to where we were losin interest fast. We rigged up a couple of trolling outfits and gave that about a mile on the way back in, but despite ample bait pods and good bottom, nothing but lizzard fish and grass were hittin. (Have I mentioned I hate trollin?). 4800 rpm back in (nice seas) and 2 hours of boat and fish cleaning later ... great day. The bite is on folks ... fire up a Yamaha and get out there!

November, 2000 ... Some rotten sumbitch stole my gd jon boat, right off the side of my house in Veterans Village. Mind you, it was just a pos 14' Sears best that I've had for 25 years, but it was perfect for 2 guys to get out on the water. You could throw it in the back of a pickup or wagon, and GO. Figuring it was a local who drives thru the neighborhood regularly (you couldn't see it from the street unless you REALLY looked hard), I talked Cap'n Bill into a canoe trip up the Anclotte on a "jon boat hunt".

We put in at the bridge on Perrine Ranch Road and paddled upstream all the way to St. Rt. 54. Couple of miles, right? As crows fly, perhaps ... that stinking river winds and twists and doubles back all over the place. Being as we were on a jon boat hunt, we had no fishing gear. Big mistake. I had the stern, and Cap'n was kinda dozing, restin' his arms and catchin some sun when I saw the first one ... monster snook, laying on top of the water some fifteen feet ahead of us. We were dead silent anyway, so I continued to "sneak" up on him. As the bow went over him, he exploded and flat-assed soaked the good Cap'n.

We saw countless jon boats (none of them mine) and even more snook, all huge and every one of them willing to soak the Cap'n when asked (and I asked every chance I got). Next time, we take a rig or two and some live shrimp.

To the bastid who swiped my boat ... I have proof of purchase, old registrations, even a tracing of the serial number ... it's only a matter of time before that boat surfaces, and I hope you enjoy fishin the toilets of the Pasco County Jail.

August 3, 1999 ... Sorry about the lack of updates ... might be 'cause I ain't been fishing! That's not entirely true ... we've been out several times in the past few months ... but there hasn't been much to report. Last week was typical of the kinds of trips we've been having ...

First stop ... nothing. Second stop ... nothing. Fifteenth stop ... nothing. Mind you, we started out in 65 feet of water, and moved to 125 feet. I got smart this trip and took me a strong-backed nineteen year old to pull anchor. "Oh yeah," says he, "I love to fish!" Little hung-over bastid was dead-green before we got a half-mile out, chummed over the side all day, and never once pulled anchor!

Finally, on the sixteenth stop, I got the first bait down, and "WHAM!!!" I pulled up for all I was worth and got a couple of cranks on the beast and had him turned. The beast had other plans. Straight back down the bastid went. "No you don't," says I, as I put my back into pulling up.

"SNAP," says my Star rod!

"@&&&#%$!!!!!", screams I! "Gol durned, piece of shat, mother humping, son of a betcha, cork sucking, buttwipe!!" (or words to that effect). I caught myself as I was about to hurl what was left of my rig overboard, remembering at the last minute there was a decent Penn reel attached to my now shortened stump of a Star.

As I was breaking out a back-up rod, Cap'n Bill went down. Two straight times he got hit and never budged the beast before breaking off. Meanwhile our third guy was hooked into something fairly big ... up comes a nasty ray. Our fourth continued chumming.

I finally get the back-up rod down and "WHAM!!" ... that's good grouper. Cranking away, pulling 'em up from 125 feet and he fought well for 115 ... then it got real easy. "What the fu.....?" Up comes a fine looking grouper head of what was once a 30-plus-inch fish. It was then that I saw them ... 3 cudas ... two 4-footers and a big-mother 6-footer. "@&&&#%$!!!!!", screams I! "Gol durned, piece of shat, mother humping, son of a betcha, cork sucking, buttwipe!!"

That was our last stop for the day. We hooked perhaps 20 keeper-size grouper and boated 3 intact. The others came up heads. That's what I get for being in a coin toss with cudas and picking "tails".

February 12, 1999 ... Can you say "YEE HAW!!!"? Sure, I knew you could. Our first stop was in 35 feet on bottom that looked on the white line like we were in fish heaven. Well, there WERE lots of fish ... all bloody sea bass. Next stop in 50 feet, the bottom looked even better ... two octopii and a couple of grunts. "@#@#$%^%#& this," said the Cap'n, and off we headed to 65 feet. The bottom was nothin' to look at ... just some chunky stuff most folk run right over. First bait down and "WHAM!" ... and it didn't let up for the next forty minutes! It didn't matter what we went down with ... "Tap, tap ... SMASH!" I even went down with a whole grunt that was 14 inches himself. As soon as I got down, "tap, tap, SMASH!" The smallest fish we got in those forty glorious minutes was 18 and a half ... the largest? Thirty nine inches of purely pissed off grouper! And we left several bigger boys down there that snapped off our eighty pound test rigs like they were nothing. By the time the bite slowed, we were done ... I couldn't have taken another grouper fight if I had to. We lost count during the frenzy, so we did a quick count in the box ... "oops ... got to put a few back to get DOWN to the limit".

Get an RPI powerplant, and get out there! The great grouper bite of '99 is on!

January 12, 1999 ... The grouper bite has been strange lately. The gags have been few and far between, the reds are all over the place. Unfortunately, you can fish all day and flat wear out your arms without putting a keeper in the box. Two days in a row, we've caught hundreds of fish without a keeper between us. Oh well ... the fight has been fun. On the upside, we're catching a lot of octopus ... our bait supply is now replenished.

November 17, 1998 ... Wow! Just one of them days! Grouper bite wasn't great, but it didn't suck either. At our fourth stop we went down with the usual sardines, cut sea bass, Octopus and the like ... and just for grins, we free-lined a pinfish as far behind the boat as we could throw it. SMASH! All four grouper rigs went down almost at once, and then WHINE went the drag on the free line. Somehow, we managed to get all four (keeper) grouper up and onboard without getting tangled all to hell and back. Meanwhile, Cap'n Bill got that free-line slowed down and started into some serious fighting. An hour and a half later, we boated that bad boy King ... all 52 inches of him! Kinda funny watchin' the Cap'n trying to fit him in a 48 inch fish box.

October 15, 1998 ... If you've been following our reports you've probably noticed we haven't updated since May. That's 'cause fishin' sucked. We did several trips during the summer months, but the water was too hot and the fishing too sluggish to mention.

However, it's now October, and the bite is back on! The papers will tell you that Spanish and Kings are just off the beaches, birds and bait are everywhere. Uh-huh. We saw a few bait pods on the way out, and a bird or two, but trolling boated us nuthin' but grass. 10.6 miles due west of Anchlote Power plant was our first (and only necessary) grouper stop. 2 hours and 10 keepers later, we headed home ... a few gags and some really nice reds! Of course, we trolled back in and caught a bunch more grass. More from the Barr None next week!

May 17, 1998 ... Another bad day on the water, and a testimonial to Murphy's Law. Five of us went out (on a four man boat) in ugly six foot seas. Tide runnin' like a sum bitch. Loran never put us on (or even close) to any number worth fishing. All but the mate (me) got blasted drunk, and the captain kept heading for numbers north and west. Mind you, the seas were coming from the south and east! Making a long story short, we managed to box 3 grouper and 2 medium Kings. Then we had the lovely 22 mile ride against the seas to deal with. I don't know what got into the Loran, but when I got 200 feet offshore of Three Rooker Bar (which was dead to starboard), the Loran said I was 7.3 miles away, and it wanted me to turn 90 degrees right. Sure glad we weren't coming in with a dense fog!

May 15, 1998 ... Yes! We headed out to some grouper numbers NW of Anchlotte in roughly 35 to 40 feet of water (approximately 10 miles out). The first hole produced lots of little reds, the second hole the same. For once, we had beautifully calm seas, and could see bait everywhere. Since the grouper weren't cooperating, we started trolling through the bait pods, with a spoon on top, and another King spoon on a planer. SCREEEAAAM went the planer rod, only to find we'd gotten our first "boxer" grouper! Well hell, let's run back over the area and see where that one was holdin'. What we found was some more of that stuff most captains run right over. Twenty minutes later, we had our limit, including four "hoss" grouper, going over 34 inches ... what a great day!

May 11, 1998 ... found us paddling north of Howard Park looking for reds and snook. We had a great day paddling ... and that's about all I want to tell you about that day.

May 9, 1998 ... ever have one of those days? We had spent a couple of days doing boat and tackle maintenance, making sure everything on board was working right. Then, we headed out to some deep grouper numbers ... some 22 miles deep. Fished the first hole and boxed a few, then decided to move. Dead batteries! Rope starting didn't get it done. We had barely enough power to get a message off to the "Rum Runner" who was within a mile or so, who relayed our message out to "Sea Tow". Now, we carry "US Boat" insurance, and (of course) Sea Tow doesn't accept US Boat. Great. 300 bucks later we were headed in.

The weekend of 25th & 26th of April found this author out west/northwest of Anchlotte Island looking for the elusive Kings on the way to some good "area" grouper numbers. One Spanish Mackerel on the way out Saturday, and one King on Sunday was all that showed up. Our grouper numbers were in 45 to 55 feet of water on structure that most folk blow right over. Well, they shouldn't! Saturday we probably caught 100 fish (including the obligatory grunts and seabass), and put eight "keepers" in the box. The grouper bite wasn't the usual "tap, smash!" but more of a steady pressure as you lifted off the bottom. Just as things were really heating up, the bite stopped.

I learned why about fifteen minutes later when something hit hard, then damn near pulled me overboard. Forty-five minutes later, I had the (black-tip) shark up where I could see him, only to get cut off when he saw the boat and made a serious escape run. Ten minutes later, I hooked another one, this time a yellowish looking shark I'm told was a "thrasher". This shark took better'n an hour to get up, making seven runs and wearing me out!

Well, we got that mother up and had him gaffed, and as we were pulling him up into the boat, he "thrashed" and spun around the gaff, snapped the line and was gone.

Sunday was even better, with 12 "keeper" grouper going in the box and no sharks. With only three of us fishing, we caught fish until we couldn't catch no mo'. A trick we've learned lately ... don't throw away those seabass! I've caught more grouper on cut seabass than I have on any other baits!


A trip out in the jon boat off Brasher Park in Port Richey started out badly on Thursday (4/30) as we misjudged the tides. Wanting to get out at dead low tide, we showed up just as dead high got there. We drowned a bunch of shrimp in our usual spots ... a couple of oyster beds, a rocky point, a small underwater island ... not even so much as a pinfish bite! The wind was blowing us inshore, so we pulled anchor and drifted ... still no bites. It wasn't until we got way back in the grass and mangroves in six inches of water that we found the fish. One nice snook and a 27 inch redfish made the afternoon worth the run.


Two trips out last week in what the marine forecasters called "seas 2 feet or less" ... yeah right. Both days were spent in 8 to 10 foot seas, and that makes for difficult fishing. One of these days I'm going to take the marine weather forecaster and the weasely-eyed liar who writes the local fishing reports (which always tells you of how great it is) on a trip out in the Gulf and use their worthless selves as bait!

As I said, fishing was difficult. Although the paper is touting "kings and spanish" everywhere, we trolled for hours and found no kings and scattered spanish. The paper also called for great grouper fishing in 25 to 35 feet ...assuming you could get anchored in the "less than 2 foot" swells, we found sluggish grouper. What was aggressive were the bait stealing seabass. The only good grouper we got all day was when I got ticked at my 30th seabass, who's head I cut off and sent back down. WHAM! One grouper for the box.

To the paper's "fishing report" credit, they're fairly accurate on the inshore stuff. On our last three trips out, we've limited on nice slotted reds, trout are numerous, and lately we've been getting into some big snook! I lost one when I mistakenly caught a small but greedy pinfish on live shrimp and was reeling him in. A huge snooker slammed the pinner and snapped through my 12 lb test ... teach me not to have on a substantial leader!

So ... it ain't all bad! Fire up an RPI outboard and get out there!

1/26/98 - Our webmaster took his two girls to an area known as the "four corners" in a residential canal just out of Tarpon Springs, FL on the 20th. Rather than launching the boat, they fished from a friend's dock on an outgoing tide ... four dozen live shrimp produced three dozen redfish, one drum, and a nice sheepshead in less than two hours. I've seen kids get bored waiting to catch fish ... the fishing was so good, the kids got bored catching 'em.

The "great grouper bite of '98" is still in full swing off the shores of Pinellas and Pasco counties. Persistence is the key. On a recent trip out, we anchored on good structure in 63' of water due west of Anchlote Island, and the bite began slow. We worked the site for an hour with a few small grouper and some sea bass and grunts and were about to give up and head elsewhere, when we decided to let out another ten feet of anchor rope. Another hour and we had put 15 keepers in the box, including one "hoss" 30 incher and one "hog" 37 incher. Just don't expect the normal "grouper smash" ... a tap, tap and then steady pressure will be all you get.

Redfish and trout (not to mention drum galore) are stacking up in the inshore canals and the flats. A trip out last week, and the guy I took (some snowbird that gets excited by two pound largemouths up north) had to quit fishing after about an hour claiming, "I gotta quit ... my arms are getting tired!"

The fishing is great right now, so fire up a JRL Outboards motor, and get out there!

Questions about the fishing? Contact our Editor.

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