Editor’s Note: Captain Johnny Greene of the charter boat “Intimidator” and a member of the Orange Beach Fishing Association (OBFA), has been fishing all winter offshore. We’ve asked him to tell us what his anglers have been catching, and what you can expect to catch during February at Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

We’ve had really-mild weather during the winter. On the long trips, we’ve been catching plenty of amberjacks and yellow fin tuna. For the table, we’ve caught numbers of nice-sized triggerfish and big vermilion snapper. On our shorter trips, we’ve been catching a lot of red snapper that of course we release, as well as lane snapper and grouper. WeOrange Beach charters’ve really been emphasizing light-line fishing to catch big fish. Often some of our Birmingham, Ala., customers will bring their flipping sticks that they use for bass fishing. We’ll rig-up those flipping sticks each with either a whole cigar minnow or a whole squid and let those anglers cast-off the back of the boat. Using this technique, you can catch almost any big fish that you want to catch. We’ve caught big snapper, king mackerel and even grouper by fishing high in the water with light tackle. Many fishermen think grouper stay strictly on the bottom, but that’s not true, especially in the winter months. We’ve found that the bigger fish come-up to the surface, looking for something to eat. Even though the big king mackerel usually are way offshore, this winter we’ve been catching a few of them on our short trips too.

A lot of customers have been asking me what they can expect in this year’s snapper season (summer of 2012), and from the snapper we’ve caught and released during the winter months, I’m sure that the snapper that will be brought to the dock this year will be even larger this year than those caught last year. Alabama’s Gulf Coast seems to have had several good years of snapper recruitment. Our snapper season is slated to open on June 1, and I think many anglers will be surprised at how big the snapper are this year. Last year, during red-snapper season, the average red snapper we brought-in weighed 8 to 10 pounds. This year, I think the average fish will be 10- to 15-percent bigger. If you use big baits and heavy lines, you can target those bigger snapper.

Although I’ve become an advocate of light-line fishing, you need to know where to effectively fish light tackle and where to use heavy tackle. To catch big fish on a 4- to 6-hour trip, I recommend using light tackle, because the fish are getting so much fishing pressureOrange Beach fishing near shore that they’ll wise-up to those big lines and heavy leads. But, when you go further offshore and fish deeper water on an 8-, a 10- or a 12-hour trip, I believe heavy tackle helps you get bigger fish to the boat. If snapper fishing is the darling of your eye, then I strongly suggest that you book early. We captains know that snapper season will begin June 1, but we don’t know when it will close, and probably won’t know that information until April. However, don’t forget that red snapper aren’t the only good-catching and good-eating fish in the Gulf of Mexico off Alabama’s Gulf Coast. We have plenty of delicious, hard-fighting fish to catch and eat. Right now we’re booking and taking numbers of 6-hour trips offshore, because on these trips, you can have a lot of fun and not spend too-much money. A 6-hour trip provides quality fishing for young people also. I had a Boy Scout group who booked a trip fishing with me, and they had a great time. As long as our weather stays calm and mild like it’s been, February’s a great time to go fishing.

To contact Captain Johnny Greene, write intimidatorcharters@yahoo.com, or call him at 251-747-2872.

The Orange Beach Fishing Association will be glad to find you and your family a captain and a boat that fits your needs. For accommodation and restaurant recommendations, contact Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism at 800-745-SAND, or visit www.orangebeach.com. To have your fresh fish prepared at the beach, go to www.orangebeach.com, click on restaurants, and check box for “Will Cook Your Catch.”

Griddled Rainbow Triggerfish:

This absolutely-delicious recipe that’s heart healthy features non-fishy-tasting triggerfish fillets in a simple-to-prepare dish that’s colorful.  Orange Beach fishing

Combination of sliced onions, green bell peppers, yellow peppers and red peppers (when in a rush, you can use the fresh fajita vegetable mixes most grocery stores offer in their salad sections.)
Sea salt
Freshly-ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 – 2 lemons, halved

Put about 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil on a griddle, like the one you cook pancakes on, on an eye of your stove with a setting one-half of the way between medium high to high. Place the sliced vegetables on the griddle, and brown them. Remove to a plate. Rub the triggerfish fillets with some extra-virgin olive oil, and then season with salt and pepper. Griddle them for about 3 minutes, according to the thickness of the fillets, until the meat is golden and crispy. Turn the fillets over, and cook them for another 2 minutes. Remove from the griddle, and serve immediately with the onions and peppers on top of the fillets.