W ith the prospect of a mild winter again and rainfall levels more normal than in recent years, April should see the start of serious fishing action on our part of the Gulf Coast.
Bay reefs and even the surf should be warm enough for “wet” wading, and green tides will bring shrimp and baitfish to trigger feeding activity by speckled trout and redfish.
Since these two piscatorial “cousins” make up two of the three most popular inshore sport species—the third being flounder—their arrival in dependable numbers brings serious fishermen out of the winter doldrums.
Because they are also very good eating, our sport can also provide tasty and healthful meals for the family. Another big plus is that a boat, although it’s helpful, is not absolutely necessary. Wading the surf and bay reefs, beachfront piers and rock groins, channel jetties, private and public docks, and the shoreline of passes and river outlets provide easy fishing access.
This might be of interest to offshore anglers—or not. As possibly (hopefully) one of the last acts by NOAA Fisheries under the Obama administration, the recreational “season” for gray triggerfish in the Gulf of Mexico will remained closed through the end of 2017, or UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.
Triggers are now under a rebuilding program, because they are considered overfished, even though traditionally few recreational fishermen target them. Using NOAA math, the reason for the low population of triggerfish MUST be because these same recreational fishermen took more than the quota they were allowed in 2016.
Sound familiar? Fishermen must therefore “pay back” by not being allowed to catch triggers in 2017 at all. Incidentally, the figure they have arrived at was that the over-fishing amounted to 221,213 pounds.
As I discussed in this column last year, my talks with offshore charter captains confirmed they were seeing very few triggerfish, but they considered this to be sort of a good thing. The most likely reason for their decline seems to be the overabundance of red snappers.
Snappers are voracious feeders, and on-the-water evidence shows they are eating immature triggerfish AND triggerfish egg clusters. With this in mind, halting recreational fishing for triggers will have little or no result in their struggle for survival
With red snappers currently being over-protected themselves, there are TWO ways that recreational fishing will not affect triggerfish. The only one of the two that could possibly help would be to have realistic catch limits and quotas for red snappers, which would in return reduce the number of snappers preying on the young triggerfish.
I did most of my offshore fishing in a time where triggers were sort of an enemy of snapper fishing. As a result, it would seem very strange to advocate basically advocate killing more red snappers to “save” triggerfish.
I have seen triggers so numerous that fishing for other species—including snapper, but also at times even kingfish—was an exercise in futility. I have seen them attack and devour snappers that were hooked or on a diver’s spear, eat plastic sandwich bags that blew overboard, and even leap out of the water to rip bites out of a diver-down flag on a buoy. My dive master on one trip was severely bitten on the hands trying to cover up a speared snapper that triggers were after.
The 2017 annual catch limit (ACL) for triggerfish would have been 214,200 pounds, with a catch target (ACT) of 217,100 pounds. The over-harvest figure reduced that to a target of ZERO pounds, and an annual limit of 19,987 pounds. NOAA regulations—set by NOAA—require the recreational sector to be closed when landings reach OR ARE EXPECTED TO REACH the annual catch limit. According to this, recreational harvest of gray triggerfish in the Gulf is likely not to be allowed in the foreseeable future.
Link this to political “Hope And Change.” I sincerely hope the new administration in Washington will rein in NOAA Fisheries, and bring about sensible change in fisheries management for the Gulf of Mexico.
Email Mike Holmes at
Location: Passes, bay reefs, jetties, rock groins and piers—plus tidal streams.
Species: Everything will be available, reds, trout, flounders, panfish—everything except gray triggerfish!
Bait: Live bait will be best, but “fresh dead” also works, along with well-presented artificials.
Best Time: Tidal movement is always critical, also early and late as far as time of day. Night fishing is still good, and more comfortable than in colder weather.
Email Mike Holmes at [email protected]