Fishing Tackle Marketplace
CALL TOLL FREE 1.877.347.4718
Available Mon-Fri 9AM - 5PM EST
You Are Here:   Home ❱ Fishing Articles ❱ Reading Room
Fill the Freezer

Fill the Freezer Fill the Freezer
By Jim Hammond

Last week I had the opportunity to join my buddy Houston Stephens on a trip to Panama City Florida to fish aboard the Capt. Ellis. This is one of many long range charter boats that operates out of Panama City. I had made this trip a few years back, and on that trip, I had the most fun of any bottom fishing trip that I had ever been on, so I was kind of expecting the same on this trip.

We left Jacksonville around 5:00 pm and drove straight to the boat, less the time to get fuel and a bite to eat on the way. We arrived at the boat around 11:00 pm, loaded all of the essentials, food, drinks, bait, rods and tackle.

Around midnight, we pulled away from the dock and headed out to sea. Not long after this, we all made our way to our bunks and turned in as we were expecting a very busy next two days. Around 5:00 am Mrs. Ellis woke us with a hot breakfast of eggs, toast, sausage, coffee and jam. Just what we were all going to need before we got on our stations and proceeded to fill the 1300 pound fish box.

I was on the camera as I wanted to get a show from this trip, all of the other 6 anglers were standing ready for the sound of "lines down". The Captain eased up on the first spot, positioned the boat and barked out the command "lines down". All six baited lines were on their way down to a rather deep 200 foot bottom. Not long after the first bait reached the bottom, I heard that sound of an electric reel straining to get the oceans bounty up to the boat. Not long after the first reel starting back up, several others were also bringing a nice fish from the dark depths of deep water fishing. It took about a minute or so for the first reel to bring over the side a nice red grouper, then another angler had another nice red grouper then came a red snapper. The mate would remove the fish, the angler would put new bait on the hook and back down for another nice fish.

Scottie Stephens, Capt. Ellis Davis, Robert Stephens and Wahoo

This action went on for about 30 minutes before the Captain blew the horn twice, letting us know to reel um up. We eased along for about 3 or 4 minutes before the Captain blew the horn one time, meaning lines down.

Captain Ellis does not put the anchor down except at night. He eases up to the spot and uses the motors to hold the boat in position over the spot. In the Gulf there is not usually a big strong current like on the east coast, so using the two engines to hold the boat over the spot is doable. I am sure it takes years of practice to be as good at keeping the boat in the same spot as Capt. Ellis is able to do.

The next spot was just as productive as the first, several nice fish over the gunnels and in the box. At this rate we were going to have a full box before our two days were up.

So far we had caught red grouper, black grouper, red snapper, beeliners and white snapper. At this point we probably had about 150 pounds of fish in the box and it had only been a couple of hours into the first day.

Now I am trying to film a show and Capt. Ellis is definitely making it easy for me, as almost every fish over the side was a nice one.

We were consistently catching 3 to 4 pound red snappers, 5 to 7 pound red groupers and then ka wham, Ron had a fish on that had his pole almost toughing the water from the bend. Up until know it had been pretty easy to get a fish that was up to about 10 pounds up from the depths, but this fish was well over ten pounds and DID NOT want in that boat. Ron kept up steady pressure, as the electric motor strained and occasionally stopped as the fish pulled back. After about 4 minutes of a tug of war that Ron will not soon forget, up came a black grouper that was pushing 40 pounds. What a fish and what a tired angler. Even though we were using electric reels, we still had to keep constant pressure on the rod by holding on to the butt end as the fish violently pulled to keep from being winched into the boat.

When fishing in depths of 150 to 200 feet of water, you pretty much need an electric reel. Other wise, you would only be able to get a few fish in the box and you would be done for the day.

To this point Ron had put the largest fish in the box and he was strutting like a male rooster. I was egging him on as Houston is usually the one to catch the most and the largest and to this point Houston was missing as many as he was catching, he was having an off day.

Houston Stephens, Black Grouper and Scottie Stephens

We moved to several other spots and the action was pretty much the same at each spot. We then went to a spot that was producing 3 to 4 pound beeliners one after another. Now, Houston was eye balling those 2 to 3 pound beeliners and by now had several in the live well. A 2 to 3 pound beeliner is a great bait for a big grouper and that is what Houston had on his mind. It wasn't long before he had one of those big beeliners back down with one of his hooks in it, awaiting the big bite. We moved two more times and Houston had what he wanted, A BIG BITE. His pole was bent good as the giant fish pulled to get back to his house on the bottom. A short lived battle between the fish and Houston ended with the fish getting back in his house and Houston breaking off. He knew there were big ones down there but this drop wasn't going to be the time for him to get one to the boat.

As the day wound down, we continued to put a variety of nice fish in the box. Capt. Ellis was now looking for a place to put out the anchor for the night and his wife was in the galley preparing our dinner, fresh fried fish, hush puppies, cole slaw, fries and a big glass of cold ice tea.

After the anchor was down, Mrs. Ellis called us to dinner and she only had to call once as we were all ready for some of that great smelling fried fish and fixins.

After we all had eaten there wasn't much interest in fishing as we were all pretty tired and a shower and a nice air conditioned cabin was looking pretty good.

The only interest in fishing at night was shown by Scottie and Myself. I had brought some funky looking kingfish rigs that I wanted to test and Scottie also wanted to put some kings in the box. After it got dark, it didn't take long for the water behind the boat to be clouded with bait and with bait came striking fish. We sent out live pinfish, dead cigar minnows and dead squid on our light tackle free line outfits. It only took about ten minutes before we were hooked up on a nice 15 pound king. He did the kingfish usual, one long run then right back to the boat. We slipped the gaff into him and in the box he went. We hooked several more kings, a ramora and a few things the we never got to see. I caught a 12 pound grouper on a Pflueger trout outfit, (I needed a bigger outfit). A 12 pound grouper in 200 feet of water on a rig that I usually use to catch trout was quite a battle. Scottie and I stayed up to about 1:30 before turning in for the night.

The next morning we awaked by the aroma of sausage and eggs as Mrs. Ellis had another fine breakfast ready. After a quick bite we were all at it again. By the time I crawled out of the sack, Houston had been send down those big beeliners and had lost two more very large fish. It seemed that with every big one that got away, his determination increased. He was going to catch a big one.

The next day was pretty much like the first, send bait down, get bite reel in nice grouper or snapper. By now we had almost filled up the box and it was getting close to the time to start heading back to the dock. A few more nice fish came over the side which filled the first 1200 pound box and we were now working on the second one.

We had now come to the last drop and the determination in Houston's eyes were evident to all. He wanted a big fish. He took out a 2 pound beeliner, cut the backbone out of it, slipped his hook in the mouth and sent it to the bottom. Ka WHAM, Houston had Mr. Big, or did Mr. Big have Houston. He was holding on to that rod with all of his might as the fish ran out about 100 feet of line on what I thought was a drag tapped down to about 40 pounds. This fish was a giant, more than 50 pounds and heading straight back to its house. Houston was doing all that he could to muscle the fish up from the depths. Finally, Houston was getting line back on the spool and the fish was coming up.

Both Steve and I had gaffs ready as we knew it was going to take both of us to get this one in the boat. The fish popped up and we both had our gaffs in him and in the boat he came. Houston had done what he had set out to, catch a monster grouper. The fish toped the scales at just over 70 pounds, what a fish. After a picture session, it was time to head fro the dock.

We were now all ready for a sandwich and a nap in the air conditioned cabin.

Robert Stephens, Ron, Ronald Stephens, James Stephens, Houston Stephens, Scottie Stephens and a pile of fish.

Everyone except me went down to their bunks for a little sleep as it was a five hour ride back to the dock and sleep is something that we had pretty much had very little of for the past two nights.

On the way back the Captain likes to send out a big trolling bait in hopes of a wahoo or tuna and on this day it was productive in hooking up a nice 35 pound wahoo. We angled this fish for a while and then added it to our collection of nice eats.

Arriving back to the dock, we divvied up our fish and the Captain figured, we had between 1200 and 1300 pounds of fish on this trip. Not a bad two days, more fish than we knew what to do with and a fantastic time on the water.

Article Rating

Current Article Rating: 3.35 with 49 rates
Hate It Love It











Post Your Reviews
Post your comments. * Required Fields. You must be logged in to post a review. Please login now or register for free today
Email: Optional
Your Grade:
Your Review:*
Read Reviews

  Read 1 review
Grade The Review
[email protected] | Posted: June 24, 2003

great article, held my interest all the way! now i hope to BEELINE it out there as soon as possible.