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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

I had come down to the Florida Keys to catch Spanish mackerel in the shallow western fringes of Florida Bay. But that's not quite how it went down on that warm February day.

Instead, I found myself more than 30 miles farther west in water deeper than planned, in the open Gulf of Mexico. Rather than casting small lures on ultralight gear to mackerel, I fumbled with the bail of a medium spinner trying desperately to toss out a large Storm WildEye swimbait amidst cries of, "Look at that cobia!"
"Right here, behind the boat."
"No, there are three of 'em!"
"Quick, get a pilchard out there!"
The plastic bait hit the water about five feet from the starboard gunwale - barely enough space to allow the lure to generate a bit of action. But little matter: The first of the trio of cobes darted up and, in a motion too quick to follow, the fish sucked in the bait even as it started sprinting away from the boat. Within moments, my reel was one of three singing a cobia song.