Mind the Reefs
The reef fishing here can be as varied as you like: anchoring and chumming for yellowtail, drifting and jigging, live-baiting, pitching tube lures over coral heads for barracuda, trolling ballyhoo or swimming plugs and small spoons for muttons, cero, king mackerel, and horse-eye jacks.
We began bottom fishing by drifting between 90 and 180 feet of water with ballyhoo-tipped jigs: a simple, yet deadly tactic yielding grouper as heavy as 68 pounds.
Armed with Penn Spinfisher V 5500 reels and Penn Torque 30 reels spooled with 20- and 30-pound braid paired with Penn Bluewater Carnage Jigging Rods, we impaled ballyhoo on 3- and 4-ounce jigs to keep the bait within inches of the reef. To improve action and disperse scent, we limbered up the ballyhoo by crushing the spine along its length and expelling waste through its vent.
I had the hot rod initially. In 170 feet, I felt a hard thump, followed by a pronounced bend in the rod. I reared back on the fish, and it began running off line. I applied as much pressure as I could without parting the braid — a must to keep big fish from holing up or breaking off on the reefs. After a spirited fight on the 20-pound gear, I eased the pressure when I had the fish halfway up in the water column to keep from pulling or straightening the hook. I soon saw pink in the blue depths, and moments later, Grassi slipped the net under a husky mutton snapper.
We also found action on groupers, and hooked a couple we couldn’t slow down. On one drift, Grassi leaned back on a heavy fish. Judging by the arch in his rod and line leaving the reel, I thought we were about to lose another good fish to the reefs. But somehow, he turned the fish and deftly fought it to the surface. His prize: a big red grouper! And this is the way it went — fast action with strawberry, red and Nassau groupers, and even mutton snapper. And best of all, there was no anchor to retrieve when we were done.
Life on the Hook
We wouldn’t have come this far without going on the hook at least once, so we headed for an offshore wreck where we’d had success on our previous year’s trip to Boat Harbour. With a livewell full of pilchards and wrasses, we anchored ahead of the wreck and chummed as we free-lined baits, and dropped some to the bottom on knocker rigs on 20- and 30-pound fluoro leaders, 4/0 in-line circle hooks, and half-ounce egg sinkers. We used 4500- and 5500-class reels with the live baits, and heavier conventional tackle with 100-pound braid to drop live yellowtail for a big grouper. The live-bait/knocker rigs proved golden, as they got slammed on nearly every drop. We scrapped with yellowtail and big schoolmaster snappers, grouper, horse-eye jacks, cero mackerel and, ultimately, big sharks. Prior to leaving this spot, I pitched a Williamson Jet Popper on a 20-pound-test spinning outfit and enjoyed explosive topwater action with a variety of big jacks.
There’s no denying that Green Turtle is a bonefishing paradise. However, in my opinion, it’s just as good a destination for offshore species, especially blue marlin and a variety of reef fish. In addition to the great offshore fishing, you have the ocean all to yourself most of the time. And who would argue with that?