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I leased a set of Federal Reef fishing permits for this year so my red snapper season opened saturday. The season for federal permit holders is June1-August 2nd while for recreational fishermen the season is June 11-July 12. One of the main reasons I leased the permits was that you can catch more and bigger fish in federal waters. With over 2000 charters running out of Destin the fish within 7 or 8 miles of the pass get fished hard.

The seas saturday started out a little rough at 2' with a 5 second period. Nothing that wasn't fishable but it was pretty bouncy. My clients for saturday were my parents, a couple they are friends with and my son Zane. My parents and their friends range in age from 69-73 so I had to take it easy on them running out so it took a bit to get out there 25 miles. Once there I deployed my new Rhodan trolling motor with spot lock and it worked perfectly. Even in 2' seas it held us within 10 ft of the spot. This was a big help because it freed me up to bait hooks and take fish off without drifting off the spot and having to reposition the boat all the time. This is going to be a game changer for me this year.

I had them drop the bait down to a count of 20 in 180ft of water and it didn't sit there but about ten seconds before we had the first snapper on the line. It was non-stop action from then on with big snapper after big snapper coming over the rail. The biggest was 15 pounds and my parents friends doubled up on the rod to get it in.

After catching their limit of ten they were a little worn out so we went for a little ride trolling. We hooked up a couple of bonitas and they fought them to the boat. They were both pretty good sized so I bled them and put them on ice because I had heard they were pretty good to eat. We came across an area with three nice size grass mats a few feet apart. I trolled around them a couple of times with no takers but then I saw a mahi mahi jump so I pulled up next to the mat had one of the guys toss a gotcha lure. He twitched it twice and BAM!! Mahi Mahi on! It was what we call a chicken, not big but big enough to make a fish taco. It jumped a couple of times and then we got it in the boat. I put a live bait on and tossed it out while they tossed the gotcha again. We got another on the gotcha and one on the live bait before they quit biting. The crew decided they were worn out so we headed home to clean fish. We hung the bucket of fillets on the scale and the fillets weighed 60 pounds!

Sunday I had six guys who were local that wanted to get some snappers. We headed out at 6 am, hit the bait boat for live cigar minnows and headed south. We encountered a crazy storm that couldn't make up it's mind which way it wanted to go. I spun up the radar to try and get around it and it kept changing directions. We avoided the rain but it had some crazy strong winds. I decided to stop on a spot about ten miles out to let it go by. We did a couple of drops and caught two trigger fish that were out of season and one snapper. The snapper was only 17 inches which was an inch over the legal length to keep but I knew we were going to catch better ones when we got further out so I had them throw it back. They commented that the captain must have lots of confidence to turn loose a legal fish.

The storm passed so we picked up and ran to the spot we wanted to fish 30 miles out. The action was fast and furious for the next hour and a half. A few of the guys had a little trouble getting them hooked at first because they kept jerking the rod but once they got over that everyone got to put two fish in the box. The big fish went 18 pounds.

After limiting on snapper we moved over to a natural bottom spot and tried for mingos and groupers. The mingos decided they didn't want to bite but we caught four red grouper that were all a half inch short. One of the guys hooked a fish and was reeling it up when he got slammed by a shark. He hooked the shark and the fight was on. On the initial run the shark took most of the line off of the Penn spinfisher V 5500 reel. He finally stopped and it was a long tug of war getting it back. After about 25 minutes he got it up to within 5 feet of the boat. We snapped a couple of pics and then cut the line. It was a 7ft sandbar shark.

As time was running out I called for our last drop of the day. Two of the guys got tangled up and as I was untangling them the guy next to me hooked up. The rod doubled over and he couldn't turn the reel handle. I dropped the mess I was trying to untangle and grabbed his line and handlined a few pulls to the the fish off the bottom and headed our way. I could tell by the way it felt it was a grouper. After about a ten minute tussle a nice gag grouper broke the surface. He measured 30 inches and got to take an ice bath on the ride back to the cleaning table.

Everyone had a great time this weekend and were really impressed with the fishing. If any of you guys are coming to the Destin area I still have lots of dates available. Since obtaining the Federal Permits I have had to increase my rate but I still offer a special discount for MWT guys. Send me a PM if you are interested in going fishing.
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