Story and Photos by Buddy Boyett
Sometimes even a blind hog finds an acorn. We were trying to catch bait over a wreck site just offshore of Mexico Beach, but the wind and rough seas were making it almost impossible to hold the boat in position over the pile of rubble. While attempting to circle around and approach the bait site into the wind, our bottom machine lit up like a Christmas tree. We marked the newly found location before we lost it, pulled forward a few hundred feet and did a drift over. Bingo!!! Everybody’s rods bent over double. It was the kind of bite that dreams are made of.
Red Snapper fishing out of Mexico Beach / Port St Joe (locals call it MexiJoe Beach) is as good as it gets. You can thank MBARA for the multiple reef sites in the area that create the structures that draw and hold not only snapper but multiple game fish species. My favorite set up is a 6/0 Penn reel spooled with 50 lb line. I like a stout rod with a toilet plunger turned inside out and stuck on the butt end. (I know, fighting belts are handy but I am old school). I then use a 3 way swivel to attach my terminal tackle. The main line is tied to the first swivel, a four foot long 50 lb fluorocarbon leader with a 6/0 circle hook is tied to the second swivel and a bank sinker (sized according to tide and depth) is tied to the third swivel with 20 lb line. The lighter line is used so that if you get hung up you can break off the sinker without losing the rest of your rig.
Fresh bait is best but live bait is better. A cigar minnow cut in half has caught a ground slide load of red snapper but a live squirrel fish or pin fish just might entice that big wily sow snapper to inhale your offering, especially if she has been exposed to a lot of pressure. The old adage “Big bait, big fish” applies here as well. Large snapper can be caught on shallow reefs but the jumbos seem to prefer the deeper structure in 100 feet or more. Oh and don’t forget to spit on your hook and hold your mouth right.
With a two fish per person limit it didn’t take long for us to max out our catch, but the size of the snapper was impressive. My Daddy use to say, “Son, there are some big ole good-uns and some good ole big-uns in that ice box”. Trips like this are the reason we fish, the reason we day-dream about fishing and the reason we teach our kids to fish. Lord willing I hope this ole blind hog can find that acorn again next trip!