ARS, American red snapper, will be the hot topic in the offshore arena for the next month. Gag grouper will also open this month, and both target feed for excellent table fare.
Billy Nobles is a local captain in the Apollo Beach area who targets these fish constantly. He has invested many, many years in perfecting his approach to catching these fish. Hit him up for a charter and you will not be disappointed. These are some of his techniques.
Gag grouper can be found up around rock structures and reefs. They react well with chumming in many of these areas, and large pinfish, threadfins and greenbacks are the bait choices this time of year. A 5/0 to 7/0 may be the hook size you want, and remember, circle hooks are required for reef fishing. You can use a 60# to 100# main line with 100# leader on a stout rod and a 6000 series reel. You’re going to need a setup with some backbone to it to move these fish up out of their hideaways.
ARS will hold up in deep water in upwards of 160 feet and 60 miles out. Do some homework and survey your depth finders or maps to locate some good ledges in that range. While on the locations, look to large towers of baitfish and chum heavily. Use big chunks of cut bait, threadfins, pinfish, greenbacks and any other type of baitfish you can get for both the chum and the hooked bait. Use a knocker rig setup with weight enough to get down and hook with a bigger gap than the diameter of the weight.
Nobles is a regular out there in the deep waters of the gulf and recommends to always keep a flatline with a live bait out behind the boat. You never know what you may find in the open waters. He regularly catches ARS, yellowtail snapper, grouper (both red and gag), mangrove snapper and blackfin tuna. Occasionally, a sailfish or mahi-mahi will come join the party. If you make a trip on your own, please remember to make a float plan so people at home know where you are headed and have an approximate time of return. Taking two boats is always safer and a lot of fun.
You can reach Nobles at 813-299-5563 or find him on Facebook at Billy Nobles. You will not be disappointed.