They were fishing out of St. Augustine and had planned on hitting some wrecks and live bottom twenty-five or so miles offshore. Being as unpredictable as they are this time of year, winds and seas prevented them from making it that far. They stopped at a wreck sixteen miles offshore and decided to forgo the outer wrecks because the seas were running almost five feet.
This time of year, as the water cools, big gag grouper and red snapper can be thick on some of these wrecks. Since the barracudas had finally started to migrate south, the three figured to boat some whole fish this trip. Previous trips, some with me aboard, resulted in many fish that were butchered by the hoards of huge cudas hovering over the wrecks.
They did manage to catch a few grouper and quite a few vermillion snapper. Two huge cobia would have made it in the box had the group remember to bring the gaff. Seems each one thought the other had brought it!
Once they finished fishing where they were, they moved back in to an area known locally as Nine Mile reef, so named because of its distance from the beach. Here is where the real fun began.
Every drop of a bait ended up with a hook-up. Only, these werent grouper or snapper. They were huge, oversized redfish. Baits seldom made it to the bottom. Those that did ended up with a red snapper. But more often than not, their baits were grabbed on the way down by one of these monster reds.
Being so big, these reds were all too big to keep. Florida has a slot limit of one red per person between eighteen and twenty-seven inches. All of these fish were well over 36 inches and weighed thirty pounds or more. After running out of film, they caught one that Jason estimated to be fifty pounds.
The fun part about all this is that reds this big will be on the several nine mile and four mile reefs up and down the East Coast of the US all the way to Virginia, and they will be there pretty much through December. If you mark your calendars, you can get them next year, too. Its an annual migration this time of year.
If you do find a day nice enough to get out to these reefs, and those days are hard to come by this time of year, please take good care of the fish. These are redfish, and they are not accustomed to the one hundred foot depths. Their air bladder does not adjust as quickly as some other fish. Consequently, they will come to the surface with their bladders in their throats if you bring them up too quickly. A very small cut in the bladder will allow it to equalize when you release them. Without that equalization, they will surely die.
This time of year offers so much in the way of fishing. The problem is the weather only gives us a few good days to fish. Take advantage of one of these good weather days and find some of these big reds. They make for a lot of fun and some super picture opportunities.
Oh - and how big do they grow? The all tackle world record came from Hatteras, North Carolina in 1984. It weighed a hefty 94 pounds and 2 ounces!
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