November on Alabama’s Gulf Coast means Thanksgiving, football, de
er hunting and lots of big offshore fish. That’s right – now’s the time that the big ones bite, and you often can stock your freezer with tuna, wahoo, grouper, vermilion snapper, tilefish, yellowedge grouper and snowy grouper. The big fish bite on Alabama’s Gulf Coast when the turkeys are on the table. And, one of the captains who particularly enjoys fishing those deep-water haunts is Captain Brian Bracknell of the charter boat the “Crowd Pleezer” that docks at the Dog River near Mobile, Ala.
Question: Brian, what are you catching now?
Bracknell: We’re catching whatever our customers want to catch. However, since snapper season is closed,
we have to throw back all of the red snapper that we catch. The good news is, we’re really seeing a lot of triggerfish right now. When snapper season was in, finding and catching triggerfish was tough. But since snapper season has closed down, and the water’s becoming cooler, the triggerfish have started biting. And, pound for pound, the triggerfish is about as good a fish as you can want for the table. We’re catching a lot more triggerfish now than we caught in the summer, and we’re fishing with 2-hook rigs and squid for bait. We’re really glad that the triggerfish are showing-up. Another thing that makes fishing better during November is that live bait is more plentiful and easier to catch. During the summer, live bait often is scarce. However, if you can catch live bait, you’ve got half the battle won when you head out to deep water.
We like to fish with live hardtails to catch amberjacks, scamp and grouper. When we go out to the edge of the DeSoto Canyon and deep-drop for tilefish, yellowedge grouper and snowy grouper, having those live baits really makes a big difference in how many fish we can catch, since both the yellowfin and the blackfin tuna also feed heavily on the hardtails. We’ve got a lot of confidence when we head-out to the edge of the continental shelf. We know
we’ve got the bait the fish want to eat. Straight south of Orange Beach, Ala., on any of the 50-mile rigs, if you put in the time fishing with live baits, you can catch a limit of amberjacks. The last trip we went on, we had some really-nice amberjacks that weighed 40 pounds or more.
Question: How were you catching those big jacks?
Bracknell: I’ve found that when you’re amberjack fishing, the size of the bait you fish with generally determines the size of amberjack you’ll catch. The bigger your live bait, the bigger the amberjack you can expect to catch.
Question: I know you’re catching scamp at this time of year, which is a smaller grouper that’s really delicious. What type of bait are you using to catch your scamp?
Bracknell: We like live, small pogies or small LYs (alewives). The scamp really love those smaller pogies, but they will eat squid, if we don’t have any pogies. When we’re fishing for scamp, we’re also catching what we call football-sized beeliners (vermilion snapper). These are much-bigger beeliners than we see in the spring and summer. We’ll also be catching grouper. We’ve learned that the best time of November to fish for these bottom feeders is around the full moon. That’s when the beeliners, the scamp and the grouper become really active and feed. What most people don’t realize is we can have a good catch of fish, good-eating fish, fun-catching fish, without have a red snapper in the box.
Question: I know you’re doing some deep dropping. How deep are you fishing, and what are you catching out there in that deep water?
Bracknell: When we go deep dropping, we’ll be fishing in water depths from 400 to 600 feet. That’s such a long way down and such a long way back up that we use electric reels when we’re fishing along the edge of the continental shelf. We’re having to fish deeper water now to get away from the red snapper. So many red snapper live on all the artificial reefs around Orange Beach and Gulf Shores that we have to run away from the red snapper to catch fish our customers can keep.
We’re catching tilefish, yellowedge grouper, gag grouper and snowy grouper out there in that deep water. More people are starting to enjoy running to deep water and catching those bigger fish. We have many-more varieties of fish that we can catch out there on the edge of the continental shelf than we have when we fish closer to shore. We catch longtail sea bass and a lot of really-good eating fish. We’re finding those grouper on ledges and in crevices out there on the edge. We’re fishing right on the edge of the Desoto Canyon, so once you get to those 50-mile-out rigs, the bottom drops off pretty quickly from 300 to 500 feet. Once reach the edge, we’ll start running east and west down the side of the continental shelf and look for the types of structure that holds the grouper and the tilefish.
The deep-water trip really works out well for many of the groups of people I take. I have a group of 10 fishermen who come down from Birmingham, Ala. They’ll leave work at 5 pm on Friday, drive down and get on my boat Friday night, and we’ll have the grill going. They’ll eat their supper, while we’re driving down the bay. Then they’ll go to bed, while I’m driving out to the edge. By the time we get to that deep water where we want to fish, we’ll have enough daylight to start fishing. We fish all day long. Then when we’re headed back to the dock, the guys eat their dinner, and we return to the dock by 8 or 9 pm Saturday night. A deep-water trip is a great adventure besides a fishing trip.
To contact Brian Bracknell, call (251) 471-2868 or visit www.crowdpleezer.com