Fishing Landward of the 20 Fathom Line on March 30 with Underwater Pictures

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John21:6
Posts: 200
Joined: October 14th, 2017, 7:11 pm
Location: Tallahassee

Fishing Landward of the 20 Fathom Line on March 30 with Underwater Pictures

Post by John21:6 »

Early on Saturday morning, we picked up the boat from Martin Marine in Carrabelle. Fortunately, all my trailer lights worked after a tip from Martin that saved me hours of tracking down the electrical problem. (On my own, I had tried fixing the problem with the lights by using contact cleaner, dielectric grease, and CRC 2-26 on the electrical connections.) My testing gadgets showed that electrical current was flowing from the truck through the 7 to 5-way pig-tail plug, but Martin found that the connection from the 5-way on the pigtail to the 5-way plug on the trailer was not very tight. After replacing the pigtail based on Martin’s recommendation, everything was great. Thanks for your help, Martin.

Back to fishing. The winds were light and the seas were calm and one of my fishing buddies had extra gas money to burn. I also had two new friends from my neighborhood on the boat and they were game for a long ride. So, we went deep but stayed north of the 20-Fathom Line. The 20-Fathom Line rule prohibits fishing for shallow water grouper seaward of the line from February 1 until March 31.

A few miles south of East Pass, we stopped in 40-50’ to find bait. My two neighbors were using my homemade double-hook bait rigs with size 6 hooks which were baited with tiny pieces of squid. Another guy was using a store-bought sabiki rig. The homemade bait rigs caught sandperch a/k/a “grouper candy,” and the sabiki caught mostly cigar minnows. With a good mix of bait in the live well, we headed south.

We eventually made it to one of my tried-and-true spots. I found the spot on a prior trip through luck, trial and error, and desperation to put fish in the boat. The bottom there is flat and unremarkable according to the sonar images. The spot holds fish because it is in an area I think the old timers would describe as grouper “potholes” or “Swiss cheese” bottom. Due to technical difficulties, most of my underwater video at this spot was of the small area right below the camera, but I salvaged a few pictures confirming the existence of potholes or Swiss cheese. One grouper even allowed me to take a portrait.
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When the bite died down, we moved out a little further. Live baits dropped to the bottom were bringing up grouper. Slow pitch jigs were working well on red grouper, too. A Nomad Design Squidtrex 150 brought up a nice red snapper that was vented and released.Image

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One of these fish caught on live bait at tried-and-true spot #2 was a true firetruck of a red grouper, and my neighbor basically wrestled it to the surface. I think the fight made him sore enough to skip the gym for two days.
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The slow pitch jig is another story. Many of us know what it means when your line starts peeling off the spool when you have a good fish halfway to the surface. It means that YOU have been SHARKED! (There are too many sharks, FWC, and there would be more grouper and snapper if there were fewer sharks.) So the guy with the jigging rod is working what seems to be a decent fish to the surface, then the rod bends hard strait down and line starts peeling off the spool. Nothing is stopping this fish. I am laughing because maybe I am a jerk and I love it when expensive slow pitch jigs that aren’t mine go bye-bye. Eventually, the fish becomes a little more cooperative and it makes it to the surface near the boat. I’ll be darned, it’s a blackfin tuna, the first one ever in the boat!

We’re not going to put that fish in my landing net because the tuna will destroy it. Where is my gaff? I am thinking. It’s been stolen! Nope, found it! The gaff is just out-of-sight in an under-gunnel rod holder. The tuna makes another long run, which gives me time to get the gaff and remove the protective tubing that was adhered to its sharp tip. Once the tuna is back beside the boat, it takes a gaff to the face and is brought on board for a few quick trophy photos.
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After photos, I stuck a bait knife in the side of the tuna’s head near the intersection of the preoperculum and the lateral line to stop the brain. Next, I cut the membrane between the collars and gills on each side of the fish to bleed it. I kept the blood from clotting by blasting the gills with the spray from the raw water wash down hose. After a good bleed, the tuna went into the cooler.

If you are curious about the jig, it was some kind of Johnny’s jig that was hot pink on one side and chartreuse on the other. I am also certain that it was hand-dipped in unicorn poo by Johnny himself. There is no other way to explain the luck it had.

Here is the grotesque fish pile at the end of the day.
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Last edited by John21:6 on April 1st, 2024, 10:32 am, edited 10 times in total.
boomhauer
Posts: 129
Joined: January 21st, 2002, 8:00 pm

Re: What does a red grouper pothole or Swiss cheese bottom look like?

Post by boomhauer »

Neat photos.
The red grouper actually fan
Out and burrow out their little holes….
They look like bream beds some times …..
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geofish
Posts: 343
Joined: July 23rd, 2016, 8:18 pm

Re: What does a red grouper pothole or Swiss cheese bottom look like?

Post by geofish »

Great report and great fotos. What would that Swiss cheese bottom look like on downscan or fishfinder?
John21:6
Posts: 200
Joined: October 14th, 2017, 7:11 pm
Location: Tallahassee

Re: What does a red grouper pothole or Swiss cheese bottom look like?

Post by John21:6 »

geofish wrote: April 1st, 2024, 6:29 pm Great report and great fotos. What would that Swiss cheese bottom look like on downscan or fishfinder?
On the sonar, you don’t see any depth changes, but you do see some evidence of fish. It could be big fish. It could be small fish there’s just not enough there to know for sure. It’s my understanding that the way the sonar works it hits off the highest point over its scanned area. It does not show potholes but the area around them.

Again, some of my good spots I found through a lot of luck and trial and error. My $40 underwater camera does not allow me to see underwater while fishing. The camera is attached to a fishing line. I must download the pictures or videos later. While taking pictures or videos underwater, I’m not fishing. If I were fishing, the fishing line and the line holding the camera would get tangled up, and I’d lose the fish or the camera or both.
John21:6
Posts: 200
Joined: October 14th, 2017, 7:11 pm
Location: Tallahassee

Re: What does a red grouper pothole or Swiss cheese bottom look like?

Post by John21:6 »

geofish wrote: April 1st, 2024, 6:29 pm Great report and great fotos. What would that Swiss cheese bottom look like on downscan or fishfinder?
On the sonar, you don’t see any depth changes, but you do see some evidence of fish. It could be big fish. It could be small fish there’s just not enough there to know for sure. It’s my understanding that the way the sonar works it hits off the highest point over its scanned area. It does not show potholes but the area around them.

Again, some of my good spots I found through a lot of luck and trial and error. My $40 underwater camera does not allow me to see underwater while fishing. The camera is attached to a fishing line. I must download the pictures or videos later. While taking pictures or videos underwater, I’m not fishing. If I were fishing, the fishing line and the line holding the camera would get tangled up, and I’d lose the fish or the camera or both.
doomtrpr_z71
Posts: 801
Joined: March 3rd, 2015, 1:09 pm

Re: What does a red grouper pothole or Swiss cheese bottom look like?

Post by doomtrpr_z71 »

Considering I just bought $100 worth of those jigs for my trip in June, I don't blame him fighting it to the top

I can get the Swiss cheese to show up on my down scan but I have no pictures, granted I was a little shallower.

That's a good fish box to me

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Red Beard
Posts: 658
Joined: March 16th, 2020, 9:06 pm

Re: What does a red grouper pothole or Swiss cheese bottom look like?

Post by Red Beard »

Grate gaff shot! Great report, thanks for sharing. Enjoy those groceries.

Nothing like that firetruck fight, hits different than the other fish.


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FTReelty
Posts: 155
Joined: May 27th, 2016, 4:25 pm
Location: T'ville, Ga

Re: Fishing Landward of the 20 Fathom Line on March 30 with Underwater Pictures

Post by FTReelty »

Thats an awesome report! Thanks for sharing!
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