Hot Spot: Freeport, Texas
Species: Amberjack, snapper, redfish, tarpon
Captain: Mike Jennings, Cowboy Charters
Captain Mike Jennings at Cowboy Charters in Freeport, Texas reports, “Fishing has been good nearshore and offshore.”
On his 12-hour offshore trips, Jennings targets blackfin tuna behind shrimp boats and he fishes for amberjack and vermillion snapper over live bottom. Inshore, he fishes half-day outings for large redfish and tarpon.
On his offshore trips, Jennings fishes over live bottom in 170 to 300 feet of water.
“We have exposed limestone that hosts a variety of cool-water soft corals,” he says.
To catch vermilion snapper, Jennings ties a simple two-hook bottom rig with 80-pound leader and six- to eight-ounce sinker. He baits two 4/0 to 8/0 hooks with bite-size chunks of squid or Boston mackerel.
“Vermillion have a small mouth so I use a small piece of bait,” he says. Globbing a big chunk of bait only makes it easier for the vermillion to steal the bait.
Targeting amberjack requires heavy tackle. Jennings brags, “Our amberjack average 40 to 60 pounds.” To battle giant reef donkeys, Jennings uses an 80- to 100-pound class rod and 30-wide reel. He runs a 12/0 to 14/0 circle hook on a 12-foot, 80-pound fluorocarbon leader with a 16 to 18-ounce sinker. Bait is a live blue runner or grunt.
When the bad weather precludes an offshore trip, Jennings takes advantage of the fantastic nearshore fishing. “Tarpon fishing has been better than usual,” he says. On a recent trip, he caught three out of five tarpon.
Jennings searches for tarpon that are surfacing along the beach. When he spots fish, he casts a live menhaden or sand trout on a heavy spinning rod. He rigs the live bait on a 12/0 hook and 12-feet of 80 pound leader.
After a slight delay, big redfish have arrived. Jennings says the fish showed up as the water temperature dropped. “They’re in their fall pattern,” he says. To find drum, Jennings first finds bait. He looks for schools of menhaden to indicate predators nearby.
Once he’s in the money, he anchors the boat and deploys a slow, steady chum slick. Then, he fishes sardines, menhaden and threadfin herring on a fish finder rig with a 10/0 hook.
Jennings expects the redfish action to last through the winter. Tarpon will leave the area soon. Offshore, he’s hoping the red snapper season opens in October. “We should know about the season in the next few weeks,” he says.