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Monday morning, 4/20, after a previous week of high winds and seas, I made the mistake of believing the predictions for 2-3 foot seas near-shore, with winds calm first thing in the morning. I headed to the Wiggins five mile reef with Tom & Dawn Wolfe and their son, Jordan. About 9:30 AM the wind picked up to about 15 knots and the seas ahead of the weather front moving in kicked up to four and five feet. The fishing near-shore was almost as slow as it had been in the backwaters Saturday, but we managed four keeper mangrove snapper and a couple of grunts. We released red and gag grouper shorts and a couple of spadefish. Hopefully, this approaching front might be the last of the season and we can begin to get into some calm water and good summer-time fishing.

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With rain and more wind moving in Monday night, I deferred Tuesday's offshore trip to Thursday, hoping for less wind and better conditions then. My party scheduled for Wednesday called to cancel Tuesday night because, with winds of 15 mph out of the N, NW, they didn't trust the forecast for 2-3 foot seas--they were probably distrustful with good cause, as the NOAA forecast has been dead-wrong all week.<o:p></o:p>

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Thursday—finally, the day we’ve been waiting for—calm seas all the way out to 38 miles and 65 feet, where I fished with Ron Musick, Eddie Alfonso and Richard Arnett. We caught a keeper red grouper and a variety of snapper, including three keeper yellowtail, a dozen keeper lanes and eight vermillion. We also caught five keeper porgies, to 17 inches. We released gag shorts, small kingfish, yellowtail shorts and a 3-foot sharpnose shark. We caught most of those on shrimp, but the grouper ate a pinfish.<o:p></o:p>

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Ryan Shick, two of his buddies, also named Ryan, and two other friends, Aubrey and Brad, were all in town for Ryan’s wedding this weekend, and fished offshore with me in 43 feet out of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /><st1:place w:st="on"><st1:PlaceName w:st="on">New</st1:PlaceName> <st1:PlaceType w:st="on">Pass</st1:PlaceType></st1:place> on Friday morning. We got the heavy tackle out and used blue runners as bait for the goliaths that were biting, and released three of those, one about 30 pounds, one about 80 pounds and one 5-foot long, whose weight I can’t even estimate, and who bit two blue runners on one hook. After that excitement and sore- arm action, we set our sites on some table-fare, baited with shrimp, and caught a 15 inch hogfish, a keeper yellowtail snapper, a few lane snapper, grunts and porgies. Waters were pretty calm once out past seven miles or so, but the winds were definitely picking up when we headed back in.<o:p></o:p>

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I thought Bill Newland and his two sons, Rich and Chris, might want to reconsider their gulf-trip for Saturday, and fish inshore instead. But the threesome wanted to get at least as far as the reefs, so we braved a small craft caution and seas of 3-5 feet. We handled the rough water okay, but we were bested out of one of my best fishing spots by nine dolphin. We ended up in 40 feet where we caught a dozen keeper mangrove snapper to 15 inches, a yellowtail snapper and some porgies. We released red and gag grouper shorts, smaller snapper, blue runners and triggerfish.<o:p></o:p>

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The photo shown is of angler, Ron Musick, with a 23 inch gag grouper, caught on a pinfish on a recent offshore trip.

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