Editor’s Note: Captain Troy Frady of the charter boat “Distraction” is based out of the Orange Beach Marina and currently is running two trips a day fishing for snapper. You can learn more about Frady and see pictures of his customers’ catches at www.distractioncharters.com.
There are so-many red snapper on the artificial reefs out of Orange Beach, that they’re practically eating the bottoms out of our boats when we go out to catch them. Red snapper season so far this year has been phenomenal. Alabama’s Gulf Coast ho
mes so-many big snapper, and we’re having so much fun catching them, that we’re having unbelievable trips. This past week, on our 6-hour charters, we landed a 23-pound snapper and a 28-pound snapper. We also caught a 35-pound and a 38-pound king mackerel this week. I know that the big red snapper are getting all the publicity, but we’re catching some whopper-sized king mackerel, from the beach to 8-miles out by high-speed trolling and slow trolling. When we’re slow trolling, we’re fishing a Christmas tree rig with a No. 3 planer and using Spanish sardines with the rig. When we’re high-speed trolling, we’re pulling a blue and white Islander.
For the red snapper, we’re using cut squid and cut Spanish sardines. In years past, to catch the big snapper like we’ve been catching, you only could catch them on live bait. But, because now there are so-many red snapper in the water, the big snapper are taking cut bait. We’re finding the big snapper from 13- to 20-miles offshore. That’s about as far as we go on a 6-hour trip. We’ve also been catching some nice dolphin (mahi-mahi). The little dolphin will weigh from 1-1/2 to 3 pounds, and we call them chicken dolphins. But, the primary dolphins we are catching right now weigh 5 to 8 pounds, so we’re calling them super chicken dolphin. We caught these dolphins when we were high-speed trolling with Islander lures on the edge of some sargassum weed that had blown-in close to shore. When we cleaned the dolphins, we found baby triggerfish in their bellies. The triggerfish, when they’re hatched out of their eggs, live in the sargassum weed, and the young dolphin stay around that weed to feed on the baby triggerfish and other small fish that live in the sargassum.
Right now, everyone is bringing-in red snapper, triggerfish, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and some wahoo – with some weighing 60 and 70 pounds. We even had a 67-pound cobia brought into the docks at Orange Beach caught on the “Yankee Star” with Captain Peter Fill. Triggerfish season will close-down June 11 and won’t open-up until next year. We’ve also
caught quite a few gray snapper, commonly called mangrove snapper. In the past 2 weeks, we caught one gag grouper that weighed 15 pounds, but we had to let him go because grouper season doesn’t come-in until July 1. The Spanish mackerel have also been fairly strong in close to shore, with the average snapper weighing 3/4- to 1-1/2 pounds. However, we did catch Spanish mackerel this week that weighed over 5 pounds. Because we’ve had a warm spring, Spanish mackerel and king mackerel have shown-up really-early.
There’s an awful lot of fishing pressure close to shore, due to the high cost of fuel. However, if you go a little further offshore, you can find much-bigger fish. That’s why we’re running two, 6-hour trips a day, instead of running two, 4-hour trips a day, so that our anglers can get out a little bit further where there’s less fishing pressure and somewhat bigger fish. I’ve discovered that we’re catching some of our bigger snapper on some of our smaller, older artificial reefs. Lots of times, snapper prefer to be loners and not have so much competition for the bait like they’ll have on bigger spots. We also have found that the snapper will be holding not directly on an artificial reef, but maybe 50-yards away. One of the things that we’re doing different is we’re using 5-foot-long leaders, coming off a barrel s
wivel with the weight up above the barrel swivel. So, by the time the weight reaches the bottom, the weight has moved-down the line away from the bait, and that little piece of cut bait is just floating-down like an hors d’ouerve being gently dropped in front of the big red snapper’s face. There’s no reason for that snapper not to inhale and for my anglers to catch it. Right now, the 6-hour trip has become more-popular than the 4-hour trip, there’s numbers of people fishing out of Orange Beach, and there’s plenty of fish for them to catch.