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Apalachee Bay Sailfish

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Apalachee Bay Sailfish

Postby John21:6 » July 12th, 2018, 12:19 pm

The other day I found an old USGS map of Apalachee Bay and the surrounding waters. The old map shows more depth contours than the NOAA navigation charts and it seemed to outline rocky areas as well. When I found the map, I began thinking, this is the Holy Grail of grouper maps; catching grouper and snapper will be easy.

My buddy and I decided to test the map in yesterday’s calm seas. We headed south from St. Marks to the "rocky areas" about 6 to 8 miles east and east northeast of K Tower. Our plan was to drop a couple of baits on the bottom and free line a live bait on top.

With nothing hitting on the bottom, it was time to move again. We reeled the lines in from the bottom. Then, I noticed that the spinning rod, which was free-lining a threadfin herring, was getting hit. Moments later, the line zoomed through the water and began peeling off the reel. Big kingfish, I thought. But, the fish shot out of the water and showed itself—a sailfish.

Immediately, we began chasing the fish using the trolling motor. It did not want to be caught. The fish zigzagged and leapt out of the water several times and swam in big circles under and around the boat. After nearly 20 minutes, we had the tired fish beside the boat and we quickly released it.

On the way home after failing to catch any grouper or snapper, I realized that the “rocky areas” on my map were likely grass-bottom areas.

If anyone has any tips on where to find grouper and snapper east of K Tower, I would be grateful to have them.
Last edited by John21:6 on July 18th, 2018, 5:10 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Apalachee Bay Sailfish

Postby redcodefsu » July 12th, 2018, 12:50 pm

Post pics!
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Re: Apalachee Bay Sailfish

Postby John21:6 » July 12th, 2018, 1:31 pm

I would be happy to post some pictures, but I can't seem to figure out how to do that.
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Re: Apalachee Bay Sailfish

Postby silverking » July 12th, 2018, 2:26 pm

Congrats on an unusual catch and more importantly, for releasing it. :thumbup:
Last edited by silverking on July 18th, 2018, 12:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Apalachee Bay Sailfish

Postby Scoop Sea » July 12th, 2018, 3:17 pm

Congrats on the catch (and release). I saw one "sunning" while fishing off of Alligator Point about 8 years ago. I was several miles out but Alligator Point was still visible in the background. I trolled everything I had at him, but no luck. It's awesome to know you were able to catch yours....
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Re: Apalachee Bay Sailfish

Postby FTReelty » July 12th, 2018, 3:23 pm

Great day! Never know what you get out there! Better than that blue tuna!
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Re: Apalachee Bay Sailfish

Postby Redfin » July 12th, 2018, 3:43 pm

Had a buddy catch a 5 footer out or Steinhatchee 30 miles out years and years ago.
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Re: Apalachee Bay Sailfish

Postby silverking » July 12th, 2018, 4:05 pm

Probably a lot more out there than we realize. They are not solely a deepwater species. The boats targeting marlin are running past many of them.

There's usually one caught right in Pensacola Pass every couple of years by boats trolling for kings.

As one local angler recently found out the hard way, you have to purchase a Highly Migratory Species permit to boat any billfish, met minimum length requirements and you also must report the landing. No need to kill one, though. Lots of great replica mounts available if you want a keepsake.

Thankfully, the big money tournaments are moving towards a more conservative approach. A new Gulf record was set in Sandestin last month when one boat won $328,000 for four blue marlin releases.
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Re: Apalachee Bay Sailfish

Postby rockyg » July 12th, 2018, 4:23 pm

Thanks for not nailing it to a piece of plywood and posting it on Facebook. :lol:

Min length is 63" from the lower jaw to fork and you need the Federal Permits SG mentioned to harvest it.

Your pictures are MUCH more impressive than dead with a nail in it's head.
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Re: Apalachee Bay Sailfish

Postby EddieJoe » July 12th, 2018, 4:55 pm

John21:6 wrote:The other day I found an old USGS map of Apalachee Bay and the surrounding waters. The old map shows more depth contours than the NOAA navigation charts and it seemed to outline rocky areas as well. When I found the map, I began thinking, this is the Holy Grail of grouper maps; catching grouper and snapper will be easy.

My buddy and I decided to test the map in yesterday’s calm seas. We headed south from St. Marks to the "rocky areas" about 6 to 8 miles east and east northeast of K Tower. Our plan was to drop a couple of baits on the bottom and free line a live bait on top.

With nothing hitting on the bottom, it was time to move again. We reeled the lines in from the bottom. Then, I noticed that the spinning rod, which was free-lining a threadfin herring, was getting hit. Moments later, the line zoomed through the water and began peeling off the reel. Big kingfish, I thought. But, the fish shot out of the water and showed itself—a sailfish.

Immediately, we began chasing the fish using the trolling motor. It did not want to be caught. The fish zigzagged and leapt out of the water several times and swam in big circles under and around the boat. After nearly 20 minutes, we had the tired fish beside the boat.

It was time for a trophy picture. My buddy decided that the safest course of action for getting the fish out of the water was to grab it by the tail. (This part of the story could be titled “How not to grab a sailfish.”) The sailfish didn’t like its tail grabbed and it thrust its bill around within inches of my buddy’s face. Fortunately, no contact; nobody lost an eye. With both of us working together, we got the fish on board, took a few pictures, and quickly released it. We didn’t measure its length, but it was probably about 4.5 feet long from its lower jaw to the fork of its tail.

On the way home after failing to catch any grouper or snapper, I realized that the “rocky areas” on my map were likely grass-bottom areas.

If anyone has any tips on where to find grouper and snapper east of K Tower, I would be grateful to have them.


John:
Great catch. IMO, with this water temperature, you are better off trailering to Lanark Village or Mashes Sands ramp to launch and fishing between K and O Tower. Look for the concentrated area of changing natural bottom contours on the NOAA chart there and/or fish the artificial reefs in that 75’+ zone. Hurry and you can keep red snapper, which will be more abundant than legal grouper. Continue to free line a bait for kings. K tower will have Cudas that will hit a tube lure and maybe some AJ that have to be released

Try Bryson, Robby’s, and the Yamaha reefs.

EJ



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Re: Apalachee Bay Sailfish

Postby John21:6 » July 12th, 2018, 5:03 pm

Thanks for the tip, EJ.
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Re: Apalachee Bay Sailfish

Postby THOMAS CITY CURVE » July 12th, 2018, 10:20 pm

Awesome
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Re: Apalachee Bay Sailfish

Postby tailwaters » July 13th, 2018, 8:44 am

Nice job!! I saw one in 35' a few miles south of the ock shoals a couple years back. It took a few for my brain to register what I was looking at. Only thing I had handy was a buck tail I was using for cobia. It just laughed at me and swam away. 30 min later I did hook up with a 85lb cobia
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Re: Apalachee Bay Sailfish

Postby STMU » July 13th, 2018, 9:45 am

That's awesome, great catch!!!!!
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Re: Apalachee Bay Sailfish

Postby Salty Gator » July 13th, 2018, 5:18 pm

Catch of a lifetime. Congratulations to you
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