Editor’s Note: Captain Ben Fairey of the charter boat “Necessity,” based out of Orange Beach Marina in Orange Beach, Alabama, has been a charter-boat fisherman on Alabama’s Gulf Coast for most of his life. We discussed what Spring Break anglers can fish for and catch offshore during March.
Question: Ben, the cobia run usually starts in March. When do you expect to start seeing those brown fish?
Fairey: March is when we start seeing our first cobia run. How much warm weather we get during the month will dictate when the cobia begin showing-up. We usually start catching them around the end of March.
Question: What will bottom fishing be like this month?
Fairey: Bottom fishing will really be good this month. The closed season for gag grouper ends on March 31, and starting in April we’ll be able to keep the gag grouper we catch. But this month, vermillion snapper, red porgy, scamp and triggerfish will be really biting well. We’ll also be catching and releasing red snapper. Also quite a few boats will run out to the edge of the continental shelf and do what’s known as deep dropping for different types of grouper, tilefish and other deep-water species.
Question: What will you be catching offshore?
Fairey: Offshore fishing will start heating-up. We’ll go to the oil rigs and catch blackfin tuna and yellowfin tuna, and we’ll start picking up a few sheepshead on the wrecks near shore. So March is a great month to start fishing offshore on Alabama’s Gulf Coast.
Question: Ben, when will mackerel fishing crank-up?
Fairey: We’ll start seeing Spanish mackerel in March, but unless we have some unusually-warm weather, the king mackerel won’t show-up until mid- or late April.
Question: There’s been a lot of interest in 6-hour offshore fishing trips this past year. What do anglers do on a 6-hour trip?
Fairey: We catch and rel
ease plenty of red snapper, which is a lot of fun for everyone. We use light tackle and fish some shallow-water reefs and wrecks. The red snapper generally will weigh 3-10 pounds each. A family can go out on one of these short trips, catch plenty of fish, have a great time and usually be able to catch enough fish to take home for dinner that night, even after releasing some fish. Because our red snapper population is starting to recover, we have tons of red snapper that people can catch and release. So a short trip creates a good half-day experience for the novice saltwater angler or someone who’s never been offshore fishing previously. This kind of trip is great for families and children, because we don’t travel far, and our customers don’t have to ride for long. Too, we sort of avoid the weather issues. These types of trips are good introductions to saltwater fishing for anyone.
Question: How many snapper can you catch on a half-day trip?
Fairey: Depending on how many people go on the trip, you should easily catch 50-100 red snapper in a day that weigh from 3- to 10-pounds each.
Question: What type of tackle will you be fishing with for these light-line trips?
Fairey: We use 30-pound-test monofilament. We try to get the red snapper high in the water away from the bottom by chumming. Many times, you’ll be able to see the fish before you catch them. Our red snapper fishery has really turned around since 1990. I know some people are disappointed because we can’t keep red snapper until June. However, seeing, catching, taking pictures and releasing these fish – all are fun to do. Besides the red snapper we catch and release, we’ll be catching some triggerfish, vermillion snapper, lane snapper, white snapper and mangrove snapper.
Question: Ben, the mangrove snapper seem to be increasing in numbers, and more fishermen are learning how to catch them, aren’t they?
Fairey: Yes, the mangrove snapper is more of a summertime fish, but we’ve learned how to chum them up, use light tackle and catch them up in the water. Mangrove snapper generally will weigh 3-10 pounds, and sometimes we’ll get mangroves larger than 10 pounds. The advantage of fishing for mangrove snapper is that you can keep 10 of them, 12-inches total length or longer. These snapper also are delicious to eat. On a half-day trip, we keep our customers’ rods bent, catch and release the red snapper and keep some of the other kinds of snapper and fish that we catch to have a delicious dinner.
Come to Alabama’s Gulf Coast, go out with one of our charter fishermen, catch and release red snapper all day and keep enough different types of snapper and grouper to have a great dinner.
To fish with Captain Ben Fairey, call (251) 747-5782 or (251) 981-4510, or visit www.captben.com
Grilled Cobia with Pineapple Salsa
Many Alabama Gulf Coast anglers enjoy eating cobia throughout the spring. Here’s a favorite recipe. (Makes 4 servings)
4 (6-ounce) cobia fillets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
2 teaspoons grated orange zest, divided
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1 (20-ounce) can pineapple tidbits in juice, drained
1/2-cup seeded and chopped red or orange bell pepper
1/4-cup finely-chopped red onion
1 Serrano chili pepper, sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1-1/2-teaspoons salt, divided
1/2-teaspoon pepper, divided
Lime wedges for serving
Combine cobia, olive oil, garlic, orange zest and 1 tablespoon of the cilantro in a glass dish, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Meanwhile, combine the pineapple, bell pepper, red onion, Serrano, lime juice and the remaining 2 tablespoons of cilantro in a large bowl for the salsa. Season the salsa with 1/2-teaspoon of the salt and 1/4-teaspoon of pepper, and set aside. Heat the grill to medium-high, and remove the cobia from the marinade, wiping off as much of the cilantro and zest as possible. Season the cobia with the remaining teaspoon of salt and 1/4-teaspoon of pepper. Grill the cobia for 5 to 6 minutes on each side, or until the fish is cooked through and flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve with tortillas and lime wedges, yellow rice and black beans.