With both red and gag grouper closed, amberjack is now the top species to target. Big ‘reef donkeys’ are thick on structure and springs in the deeper waters off Tampa Bay.
I headed out this weekend on the Getaway Sportfishing Charter in St. Pete Beach. We hit the usual spots to gather bait, but the pinfish were scarce and small. Eventually we had a full livewell, and we headed out to a wreck in just over 100′. As we reached the structure, the bottom finder lit up- yeah, the amberjack were home. With the clear water, it was possible to see them schooling 80 feet below. We fired down some medium sized pinfish, and soon the action was on.
If you’ve never caught amberjack, you’ll be amazed by how hard the fight. You’ll definately be feeling it the next day.
The bite was not the frenzy that sometimes occurs; we’d hook up, fight the fish for 15 or so minutes, then circle back around for another drop. We did manage a couple of double headers, and we had a couple of breakoffs as well.
The amberjack limit is one fish per person. And, yes, we limited out on 25 to 30 pound fish. Then it was catch and release. We did have a surprise- a 30″ redfish whacked one of our pinfish:
Amberjack is delicious grilled, smoked or (my favorite) blackened. Here’s the final result of the trip: