This was no secret spot by any means. It is listed on every chart around, and on any given Saturday, it looks like a parking lot. If you head offshore, you need only look for the boats already anchored or drifting over the site. But, today, the weather was cold, it was a weekday, and we needed the GPS to find the barge.
As we idled over and around the area, the barge sides rose up from the bottom on the depth finder. Being marked all over and around the barge was a huge school of fish, a sight that is seldom seen on this barge in the summer.
Cold water may turn a lot of fish off, but for some fish, it means moving closer to shore. Black sea bass are one of those fish.
They are all born female, like a number of other fish species, and they change sex when they mature. Many biologists believe the number that change is dependent on the relative size of the school and health of the fishery.
Once they turn to a male, they grow much larger than their female partners. In the winter, the really large ones reach eight pounds or more. Their head is larger than the females, and it takes on the green tint that gives them their nickname.
Now, we're not talking about huge fish here, folks. Most of the fish we caught on this trip were in the three to four pound range. But, in a winter slump when virtually nothing is going on, these fish are a welcome sight. And as far as eating, you can't get much better than these guys. We released a number of these fish into the Crisco ocean later that evening!
Catching them is easy when you find them. Cut bait, such as squid, mullet, sardines, or cigar minnows works very well on a standard bottom rig dropped to the fish below. All up and down the east coast of the US, these fish have made their way to the shallower wrecks and artificial reefs.
So, take some frustration out of your fishing while its cold. If you get a good day, give in and head for a close in reef. If you think you might be embarrassed by someone seeing you fish for sea bass from your $30,000 offshore center console, rest easy. If they see you out there, they're probably after the same thing - some fishing fun and a good eating catch!