John's Journal...

Summertime Fishing on the Gulf Coast

Offshore Party-Boat Fishing with Captain Davy Jones

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: The largest man-made artificial reef program in the world can be found right off Alabama’s Gulf Coast. About 1,600 miles of gulf bottom is designated for reef building. “All together, we probably have 15,000 to 25,000 artificial reefs deployed off Alabama’s Gulf Coast,” says Vernon Minton, director of Alabama’s Marine Resources Division. You can find the GPS coordinates of these reefs at Some of the largest red snapper in the world are caught and weighed-in at the port of Orange Beach during the Red Snapper World Championship, which is running this year until August 15. Wahoo, king mackerel, grouper, tuna, amberjack and marlin all come to the dock at Orange Beach, Fort Morgan and Dauphin Island every summer. I can catch any species out of Orange Beach I want at any time of year and choose the amount of time I want to spend on the water from a 4-hour or a 2-day trip to a weekend-long trip. Today I’ll tell you what you can expect fishing out of Orange Beach this month. Captain Davy Jones of the “C.A.T.” charter boat docked out of Zeke’s Marina in Orange Beach, Alabama, has fished out of Orange Beach for 29 years. “Yes, I do get a lot of kidding because my name is Davy Jones, and I enjoy every minute of it,” Jones sClick to enlargeays.

Question: Davy, why do you like running a party boat?
Jones: I like meeting new people every day and watching people smile as they enjoy catching fish. I have a lot of fun on these trips.

Question: You run 6-hour fishing trips for families and companies, as well as 4-, 8-, 10-, 12- and 24-hour trips. Tell me about a 6-hour trip. Where do you go and what do you catch?
Jones: Our 6-hour trips are pole-bending trips where we try to catch a lot of fish and keep customers’ poles bent the entire time they’re fishing. We go out to the natural bottom, the Trysler Grounds, and catch vermilion snapper, triggerfish, white snapper, grouper, red snapper, pogies and king mackerel. Occasionally, we’ll catch an exotic fish, such as a bigeye snapper or a queen triggerfish. The 6-hour trip is a great introductory trip for a family or a group who just wants to see the type of fishing they can expect in Orange Beach. We charge $1,450 for 10 people and then an additional 10% for every person over 10-years old for a planned, scheduled trip. If we have a walk-on trip, which is a number of different people who want to fish for 6 hours, we charge $120 per person.

Question: What do you catch on your 10- and 12-hour trips?Click to enlarge
Jones: We generally catch amberjacks and grouper and troll for wahoo, and during red snapper season, we’ll catch really-big snapper.

Question: On a 12-our trip, how many fish do you catch?
Jones: We’ll usually bring in between 400 and 600 pounds of fish, which often will include a limit of amberjacks, four or five grouper and a good number of scamp, which is one of my favorite fish.

Question: How big are the scamp you catch?
Jones: They’ll weigh between 7 and 10 pounds, which is a really-nice-sized scamp.

Question: What’s the trick to catching scamp?
Jones: We use two-hook rigs and bait with squid on the top hook and a pinfish on the bottom hook. Click to enlarge

Question: How deep is the water you’ll be fishing for scamp?
Jones: We’ll fish from 260 to 300 feet of water. When we fish deep, we’ll catch bigger white snapper than we’ll catch on the Trysler Grounds, 2- to 3-pound vermilion snapper (beeliners), 15- to 30-pound grouper, depending on the species of grouper we catch, and sometimes a wahoo while trolling on the way out or on the way back from our trip. Our average-sized wahoo will weigh 35 to 40 pounds. The wahoo is one of the best-eating fish we catch in the Gulf of Mexico. The king mackerel we’ll catch on those longer trips will weigh from 25- to 30-pounds each. If we’re fishing during snapper season, which we will be in June, July and until August 15th, the snapper will weigh from 10- to 18-pounds each. We’ll be fishing in the Red Snapper World Championship (RSWC) the next couple of months, and I have the coordinates of several artificial reefs locations that I’ve been saving all year for the RSWC to try to catch the biggest snapper we can.

Question: What size reefs do you have to fish to catch those big snapper?
Jones: You’d be surprised, but we’ve caught big snapper on big and little reefs. I spotted one of the biggest red snapper I’ve ever seen in the Gulf of Mexico on an underwater chicken coop that almost was rusted all the way to the bottom. I’m a scuba diver, as well as a charter-boat captain, and I like to dive and see what the fish are holding on and how they’re positioned on a wreck or a reef. I couldn’t believe that big snapper was holding on that little, almost-gone chicken coop. Although big red snapper tend to prefer large structures, I’ve seen them holding on structure not much bigger than a Coca-Cola can.

Question: What else do you see when you scuba dive?
Jones: There are plenty of fish on every reef. It’s unbelievable how many fish these artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico are holding. I dove on the Escambia Bay bridge rubble, which was only 80-feet deep, and found a number of coral, vermilion snapper, scamp, gag grouper, snapper, amberjacks and other fish. When you scuba dive on these reefs, you can see fish you may not generally catch. In the late summer, we go out to the Trysler Grounds and catch shovel-nosed lobsters. Since the reef is in 120 feet of water, you only have 7 to 8 minutes to stay on the bottom, so you may only catch two or three per dive.

Question: How big are the lobsters you catch?
Jones: They usually weigh about 2-pounds each. I’ve heard there are spiny lobsters on the Trysler Grounds, but I’ve never seen one. I don’t believe our fishermen know how many fish are holding on the reefs our charter-boat captains fish. But from scuba diving, I know our reefs are loaded with fish, and that’s why even on a 4- or a 6-hour trip, we can keep our customers’ poles bent and fish coming to the boat.

To fish with Captain Davy Jones, visit, or call 251-747-2702. . For more information about restaurants, lodging, amenities and places to go and see, visit, and call 800-745-SAND.

Tomorrow: Do It All in June on Alabama’s Gulf Coast with Captain Chip Day

Check back each day this week for more about "Summertime Fishing on the Gulf Coast"

Day 1: Inshore Fishing with Captain Dennis Treigle
Day 2: Catching Speckled Trout and Mackerel with Captain Dennis Treigle
Day 3: Offshore Party-Boat Fishing with Captain Davy Jones
Day 4: Do It All in June on Alabama’s Gulf Coast with Captain Chip Day
Day 5: Deep Water and Big-Game Trips with Captain Chip Day


Entry 511, Day 3