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John's Journal... Entry 90, Day 1

Saltwater Fishing Off Pensacola, Florida

click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: Anglers long have known about the terrific fishing available off Alabama's coast in the Gulf of Mexico. This week we'll take a look too at fishing with Captain George Pfeiffer of Pensacola, Florida, at the Trysler Grounds in the Gulf of Mexico.

Glancing over my shoulder, I saw Jason Berryhill of Pleasant Grove, Alabama, wadded-up in a knot with his head down, muscles strained, back arched and feet wide apart as he pulled fiercely against his rod. The drag slipped. The fish fought straight up and down in the water above the rocks out of Pensacola, Florida. I didn't watch Berryhill's struggle for long, however, because three other anglers onboard began fighting bent rods. I also felt a fish tapping on my bait.

click to enlargeOnce I set the hook and started to retrieve line, I looked back at Berryhill and the others. The mate grabbed the gaff and helped Berryhill pull a 20-pound grouper over the gunwales. The other anglers brought onboard a 2-pound vermilion snapper, a 5-pound triggerfish, a 5-pound red snapper and a squirrel fish. Shortly after, I reeled in a 2-pound red snapper just a little shy of the 16-inch-size limit.

Amberjack, grouper, snapper and all the other pelagic and reef fish you can imagine bent our rods during our 10-hour trip with Captain George Pfeiffer of Pensacola, Florida, on the charter boat "C.A.T.," based at the Florabama dock across the road from the popular restaurant and bar on the Florida/Alabama line that shared the same name.

"I park the front half of my boat in Alabama and the back half in Florida," Pfeiffer commented. "Then I can fish both states' waters as well as international waters."

click to enlargeDuring snapper season, anglers from the Mississippi Gulf Coast all the way to Destin, Florida, concentrate their fishing on the more than 1,000-square miles of Gulf of Mexico bottom off Alabama's Gulf Coast that's designated for artificial reef building. Anglers in this area can fish thousands of public and private reefs. By using the Loran coordinates provided by Alabama's Department of Conservation at its website at www.dcnr.state.al.us.com, anglers quickly and easily can run to these artificial reefs and catch a limit of snapper.

However, surprisingly, our great day of fishing didn't take place in the famous reef-building region off Alabama's Gulf Coast. We fished 20 miles out from Pensacola Pass on natural bottom in an area known as the Trysler Grounds.

Located 22 miles south-southwest of Pensacola Pass, the Trysler Grounds are created by limestone formations of dead coral. Approximately 115- to 125-feet deep, about 3- to 5-miles wide east and west and anywhere from 100 yards to 1/2-mile long north and south, the Trysler Grounds make up the largest hard bottom in the Pensacola/Orange Beach area.

Before the state of Alabama began its extensive reef-building program and the oil and gas companies built drilling and production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, Upper Gulf Coast anglers could catch reef fish like snapper and grouper only at the Trysler Grounds, the only hard-bottom area near Pensacola. In those days, the Trysler Grounds also homed ample stocks of king mackerel, cobia and amberjack.

"I went scuba diving in this area one time," Pfeiffer commented, "and discovered plenty of rock, edges, rock formations and crevices where fish could hide. Today many more fish thrive in the Trysler Grounds than most anglers realize."

click to enlargeThis fish-rich place also has white snapper, scamp, grouper, vermilion snapper and red snapper concentrating there. "On top of the bigger underwater rocks at the Trysler Grounds, you'll find amberjack, king mackerel, barracuda and cobia," Pfeiffer reported. "Also, we often see on our depth finder big balls in the water made up of cigar minnows and other baitfish schooling above the rocks. Those big balls of bait attract and pull in the kings, cobia and amberjack that swim up and down the reefs. And although this region draws quite a bit of fishing pressure, none of the spots seem to be overfished."

For more information about fishing with Captain Pfeiffer, call (850) 432-0337, in Pensacola, Florida, or Pensacola's Chamber of Commerce, (800) 874-1234, or visit the website: www.visitpensacola.com.

TOMORROW: The Trysler Grounds -- One of the Best Bottom-Fishing Areas Near Pensacola, Florida




Check back each day this week for more about Fishing With Captain George Pfeiffer ...

Day 1 -Saltwater Fishing Off Pensacola, Florida
Day 2 -The Trysler Grounds -- One of the Best Bottom-Fishing Areas Near Pensacola, Florida
Day 3 -More Productive Fishing at the Trysler Grounds
Day 4 -More Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico
Day 5 -Other Gulf of Mexico Species

John's Journal