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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


Just about the time we'd forgotten about that surface line, the clip popped and the rod started bouncing. While Andy worked to make sure this fish didn't also make a run for Mexico, the big, lit-up tiger shark (mentioned above) showed up out of nowhere, leaving everyone a little pop-eyed. The shark didn't seem inclined to spend much time lingering, and when I saw its retinue - a pair of cobes swimming just above its tail - passing by, I cranked for all I was worth.
 
My goal was to get a lure in front of the fish before they moved out of range. The lure I had on wouldn't have been my first choice for cobia. The Sea Striker Gotcha, a metal cylinder, really does work for damn near everything, but it's a bit small for cobia. And my gear, a tiny Quantum reel with wispy 8-pound braid, was too light. But that was what I had in my hands and, well ... what's a guy to do? I did that, and, sure enough, one of the cobia left the shark to follow the Gotcha.
 
Some 10 feet off the transom, a hit and a miss! Five feet, another miss! That brought it swimming right next to the boat; all I could do was drop the hunk of metal in front of its nose. That proved enough: The cobia snapped at it, and this time we were off to the races!
 
About 10 or 15 minutes later, we had a double in the boat - kingfish and cobia. While we set up for some quick photos, Lee Crockett, who'd come down from Washington D.C. to fish with the Stanczyks, found himself in the corner, hanging on for dear life to a 4/0 reel filled with heavy braid. At the other end, a goliath grouper of proportions modest for the species made clear it had some reluctance about leaving the bottom. Eventually, Nick released the hundred-pounder that hadn't been able to resist a jack he'd sent down on a huge circle hook.
 
In fact, an angler could exhaust himself out here tussling with goliaths of that size and much, much bigger if he wanted to target the massive monsters for some tug-of-war contests. Some anglers are eager to wrestle up a goliath or two. It's certainly an awesome thing to release a fish the size of a Mini Cooper boat-side.