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January 21, 2009

Freelance Free-for-All

Fish the Gulf's easternmost fringes in late winter to catch anything and everything


Our original mackerel plan had plenty of merit, according to our skippers on the BnM, Richard Stanczyk and son Nick. "When the Spanish are in Florida Bay, you can't believe how fast the fishing is!" says Richard. And the Spanish here normally run thick as ants at a picnic from November well into March. Last season, whether or not part of a global-warming phenomenon, extraordinarily warm water temperatures seemed to have sent the big schools of macks packing.
Upon determining that to be the case, Richard asked if we wanted to "pick away all day" to catch some Spanish (they were around, but scattered and not swarming, as we'd hoped) or head many miles farther west into the slightly deeper (12 to 15 feet or so), slightly clearer waters of the easternmost Gulf of Mexico to catch whatever we might find.
Having some idea how productive the edges of the Gulf can be, that proved a no-brainer for me, at least. Plus, I knew the sunny, calm day would make the additional hour run less onerous.
Of course, at the start of this feature I gave away the happy ending of this gamble: We whacked 'em. There were only a few slow periods when someone wasn't hooked up to something.
That double whammy of action and variety can make memorable days of freelance trips out to the "great Gulf beyond" - as long as your skipper has enough of those magic numbers in the form of waypoints of wrecks, small obstructions, tiny rock piles and the like in the otherwise flat, featureless Gulf floor. Finding any bit of structure is like locating a vein of gem deposits in the desert.