Giant Scamp Just a Pound Off the State Record

Bottomfishing is on fire in deep water off Biloxi.

Kyle Mallet with large scamp
Kyle Mallet’s scamp was just a pound short of the state record. Courtesy Eric McNally

Andrew Alexander of St. Martin, Mississippi is a dedicated offshore angler, and he and a select group of fishing buddies and family anglers have had a banner year fishing the Gulf of Mexico off the coastal town of Biloxi.

A typical day of fishing aboard his 36-foot Yellowfin boat Job Site is an all-day affair, often leaving the dock at 4 a.m.—well before sunrise—and returning home well after dark about 9 p.m.

Their primary targets are tuna, yellowfins, and blackfins. But first they stop to jig up live baits such as hardtails and horn bellies in 40-to-60 feet of water on their way to deep oil rig structures where bigger fish hold.

On Sept. 3 the Job Site already had a live well full of bait and was 130 miles from home port when they got into tuna, boating a 30-pound yellowfin and a dozen blackfins. Then, as they usually do during a far-flung trip, they stopped at some closer-to-shore spots for bottomfish, targeting gag grouper, snapper and other bottom species.

They were drifting with the boat’s three 400-hp Mercury outboards purring for positioning over choice bottom structures in 120 to 200 feet of water, when Kyle Mallett got a heavy strike. Using rugged tackle to horse strong fish up off the bottom to avoid shark cut-offs, Kyle had his fish boatside in just 10 minutes.

His fish was a comparatively rare scamp grouper, that on certified scales weighed 27-pounds, 5-ounces, less than a pound shy of the Mississippi state record scamp weighing 28-pounds, 4-ounces caught in 2016 by angler Joey Antoon.

Remarkably, Kyle’s 27-pound scamp is one of seven such grouper the Job Site has brought aboard recently, including four scamp each weighing over 20 pounds during the last month.

Just two days later on Sept. 5, the Job Site boat was offshore again working for bottomfish in the same area where the near-record scamp grouper was caught.

On their first drop with baits to the bottom they hooked a huge gag grouper, but near the boat a massive shark took the gag. The head of the grouper left by the shark later weighed 12 pounds.

“We have a real problem with big sharks, and we’ve got to get fish off bottom and in the boat fast or the tax man (sharks) get their share of our catch,” says Eric McNally, who regularly fishes with the Job Site crew. “The boat is 10 feet wide, and when that shark came up to take the grouper, we could see some of the shark on either side of the boat at the same time. The shark was massive, at least 12-feet long.”

Not long later Kevin Alexander brought aboard an unusual bottomfish for the crew, a colorful rock hind weighing 3-pounds, 1-ounce. Kevin’s fish is just short of the Mississippi state record, too, which weighed 3-pounds, 10.40-ounces, caught in Mar. 2022 by angler Trey Tinkle.

To finish the day off Jacob Alexander, 16, caught 21-pound scamp grouper.

“The offshore action we’ve been having is incredible,” says Eric McNally. “We’re getting lots of gags, amberjack and snapper. The reefs are just loaded with red snapper, the other day we caught a boat limit of 12 red snapper to 18 pounds in just nine minutes of fishing.

“Plus, there’s tuna offshore, and sometimes cobia around as well. It’s something special, that’s for sure.”

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