Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Mixed Bag: Snapper Aren't the Only Fish in the Gulf

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Mixed Bag: Snapper Aren't the Only Fish in the Gulf

Article excerpt

ORANGE BEACH | After days of a steady southeast wind, the Gulf's surface is still broken by small, slow-rolling waves. But with no breeze, there's no ripple on the top of the water and the shimmer and flipping tails from the bait fish is easy to pick up.

"There's the cigar minnows," Robert Kritzmire, known as Capt. Rob to quite a few of his customers, says as he squints into the sun. "He ought to be right around here somewhere. Let's see."

Kritzmire takes a heavy spinning rod rigged with a weightless line leader baited with a live pinfish and tosses it toward the bait ball. He flips the bail over and hands it to George Hein, who is on vacation from Champaign, Ill.

"It shouldn't take but a couple of minutes," Kritzmire says. He is right.

"Yeah, he's on," Hein grunts as the 42-pound cobia bends the big yellow rod double and pulls line steadily off the large black and gold Penn spinning reel.

"Don't reel against the drag," Kritzmire says. "Just let him take drag and keep it tight."

Hein patiently keeps the pressure on the fish and follows it around the boat. He steadily gains ground on it and, before long, the brown, vaguely shark-like shape can be seen just below the surface about 10 yards from the boat. The fish is tiring after a long fight.

As Hein brings the cobia to the boat, Kritzmire grabs a long- handled gaff and waits. The fish swings by the boat and he drives the gaff point home under its jaw. As Kritzmire swings it into the boat, the cobia comes alive, thrashing and banging around in the front of the boat. A small club finally subdues it.

"Yeah," Hein says, lifting the fish for pictures. Looking back north, the condos and white beaches of Orange Beach are plainly in sight.

Kritzmire, who owns Rob's Inshore Fishing, never gets more than 9 miles from shore. He uses 24-foot open Kenner boats with outboards for his inshore/near shore charter business.

"We can go twice the speed, get out and get back in four or five hours," Kritzmire said. "But only when it's calm."

Most of the Alabama charter fleet is obsessed with red snapper. Using 30- to 60-foot sportfishers and walk-around boats propelled by inboard diesel engines, most charter captains lumber 12 to 20 miles into the gulf to snapper reefs. They fill their snapper limits and come home.

Kritzmire fishes inshore around Perdido Bay for speckled trout, redfish, pompano, flounder, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and sheepshead, but also ventures into the Gulf for cobia, king and mackerel, red snapper and mahi mahi.

"I try to chase what's biting," Kritzmire said. "There's no sense chasing what's not there. If I know the mackerel are on fire, or the cobia, that's what we're fishing for."

If the wind blows up big swells in the Gulf, Kritzmire stays in protected waters inshore.

With federal waters now closed to snapper fishing, Kritzmire is one of the few charter captains who can take clients fishing for red snapper. …

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