John's Journal...

Visit the Upper Gulf Coast for Outstanding September Fishing Offshore and Inshore

Day 3: Amberjacks on Alabama’s Gulf Coast in September

Click for Larger View“Let me at em’,” said the junior-high-school fullback on the deck of the “Summer Breeze II” charter boat on an amberjack fishing trip. Looking like a Greek god with his greased-down muscles rippling in the sun, this young athlete was all trash talk when he came to the rails for the first drop-down to the giant amberjacks waiting below the gentle rolling waves of the Gulf of Mexico. However, his bravado was quickly trashed when a 50-pound-plus amberjack inhaled the hardtail he’d used for bait, and the amberjack ran like a greyhound straight for the bottom. The rod pretzelled quickly, and the young football player’s muscles reacted so fast that the notion of talking gave way to the need to survive. “That blankety-blank-blank ain’t ever gonna stop,” the young man said as he fought hard to hold on to the rod and reel, never thinking to turn the handle on the reel to try to retrieve line feeding off his reel with the speed of a leopard chasing its quarry. The battle, which ensued for what seemed like hours but actually only lasted about 15 or 20 minutes in September, thoroughly exhausted the young football player and sent him into the cabin of the “Summer Breeze II” to drink two bottles of ice water, enjoy the air conditioning and rest. A big amberjack has the ability to take the starch out of anyone’s britches.

“Amberjacks are one of the hardest-fighting fish in the Gulf of Mexico,” says Captain Bobby Walker of the “Summer Breeze II” charter boat docked at Zeke’s Marina in Orange Beach, Alabama. “Even a 20 or a 30 pounder can put a good whipping on someone not accustomed to catching amberjacks.” To contact Captain Bobby Walker, email him at, visit, or call 251-981-6159 or 251-747-3575. 

Click for Larger ViewCaptain Johnny Greene of the “Intimidator” charter boat docked at Orange Beach Marina in Orange Beach, Ala., explains, “Amberjack fishing is good from the end of red snapper season throughout the winter and particularly in September. We’ll often catch gorilla-sized amberjacks, because of the overabundance of baitfish our area of the Gulf of Mexico usually has in the winter. We also catch amberjacks in the 90- to 100-pound range, especially when we go on tuna-fishing trips in the fall and the winter.” To contact Captain Johnny Greene, call him at 251-747-2872 or go to

New Technology Makes Finding Amberjacks Easy:

Amberjacks aren’t as difficult to locate as they have been in the past. New technology and depth finders enable charter-boat captains and private-boat owners to see these big fish, even before they let-down their lines, and identify the amberjacks from other species of fish. “Because our electronics are more high-tech and advanced than the electronics we once had, when I pull-up on a spot, I can identify the types of fish holding on that spot,” says Captain John Hollingshead of the “Miss Hollie” charter boat, docked in Orange Beach , Alabama. “So, when I move over a site, I can tell if the place where we’ll be fishing is holding amberjacks, vermilion snapper, white snapper, triggerfish and/or redfish. This allows us to help our fishermen target the specific type of fish they want to catch.” To contact Captain John Hollingshead, call him at 850-492-4534, email him at, or visit

Captain Bobby Walker explains that when he’s searching for an amberjack spot, he looks for big reefs like sunken barges, tugboats, “Liberty” ships or a number of the natural rocks and reefs on the Edge (the Continental Shelf). “To get the big amberjacks, we go down near the oil rigs or the deeper rocks in 250- to 500-feet-deep water,” Walker reports. “The amberjacks usually will suspend above those rocks, reefs and wrecks. Amberjack fishing is no longer guesswork. We can see the amberjacks on the depth finder before we ever tell our fishermen to let-down their lines.”

The Best Baits and Depths for Amberjacks:

Click for Larger ViewMost people eat the size bait Captain Walker uses when he fishes for amberjack. “We like a 2- to a 3-pound hardtail (blue runner) when we fish for amberjacks,” Walker explains. “We often can catch those blue runners just outside Perdido Pass at the jetties. But we’ve used ruby-lipped grunts, croakers, vermilion snapper and almost any fish we can catch on the bottom before for bait. We even use small bonitos. Often live bait like pinfish, mullet and other smaller baits can be caught around the docks at Zeke’s Marina.” But Walker, like many-other captains, usually will stop at the ends of the jetties at Perdido Pass and try to catch as many big blue runners as he can. “We believe that bigger baits catch bigger amberjacks,” Walker emphasizes. Once Walker has the bait on board, he’ll use a 60- to an 80-pound-test main line, with an 8- or a 12-ounce slip sinker up the line. Below the slip lead, he’ll tie-on a barrel swivel, put 10 feet of 60- to 80-pound-test monofilament leader on the other end of the barrel swivel and attach a circle hook to the end of the leader. “You don’t really have to set the hook when you’re using the circle hook,” Walker mentions. “When an amberjack takes the bait, lower your rod tip, and then begin to pull back slowly, as the amberjack swims in the other direction. The circle hook will roll in the amberjack’s mouth and lodge in the corner of its mouth. Then, the battle begins. We miss very-few bites using circle hooks for amberjacks.”

Click for Larger ViewWalker usually will tell his fishermen how deep to let-down their lines. “I may say to let their lines drop and then count to 10 or 15 before they engage their reels,” Walker explains. “In deeper water, I’ll usually tell them to let-down their lines and count to 20 or 30 before they stop their lines and engage their reels. Most of the time within a few seconds of engaging the reels, they’ll have amberjacks on their lines. If we’re fishing in 100 feet of water, the amberjacks will be holding in 25 to 50 feet of water. The amberjacks usually hold in the top 1/4 or 1/2 of the water column.”

Go to to learn more about fishing, captains, accommodations, recreation and restaurants, or call 1-800-745-SAND.

Alabama’s Offshore Fishing: A Year-Round Guide for Catching Over 15 Species of FishFor more information on saltwater fishing on Alabama’s Gulf Coast and for an opportunity to meet the captains that you can fish with, get the new Kindle ebook “Alabama’s Offshore Fishing: A Year-Round Guide for Catching Over 15 Species of Fish ” by John E. Phillips. Go to Or, you can go to and type-in the name of the book, download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.

Tomorrow: More on September Amberjack Fishing at Alabama’s Gulf Coast

Check back each day this week for more about "Visit the Upper Gulf Coast for Outstanding September Fishing Offshore and Inshore"

Day 1: Mississippi’s Saltwater Fishing and Football Go Together Like Popcorn and a Movie in September
Day 2: Fishing Inshore for Trout and Redfish During September at Mississippi’s Gulf Coast
Day 3: Amberjacks on Alabama’s Gulf Coast in September
Day 4: More on September Amberjack Fishing at Alabama’s Gulf Coast
Day 5: The Weather’s Great and the Fishing’s Better in September at Alabama’s Gulf Coast

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Entry 682, Day 3