Editor’s Note: Captain Randy Boggs of the “Reel Surprise” charter boat, based out of SanRoc Cay Marina in Orange Beach, Alabama, says, “Fishing can’t get any better.”

“The blue water has moved in close to shore here in mid-May, the water temperature is about 77 degrees, there’s lots of sargassum weed, and we’ve been catching blackfin tuna within 30 miles of the beach,” Captain Randy Boggs reports. “The bottom fishing for vermilion snapper and triggerfish has been excellent. We’ve been catching and releasing a lot of red snapper, and there’s been plenty of big amberjacks caught in waters from 180-to 200-feet deep on live bait. Too, plenty of wahoo are being caught on the longer trips.”

Red Snapper Season, Triggerfish and Grouper

According to Captain Boggs, “Red snapper season is going to be absolutely the best ever this season and will take place June 1 to July 10. Although snapper season only lasts 40 days, tOrange Beach fishinghe National Marine Fisheries Service expects anglers to harvest about 4-million pounds of snapper in 40 days. Last year, the average fish was 6 to 8 pounds, and a 10- to 15-pound red snapper really wouldn’t get anyone’s attention. I believe the average red snapper we’ll catch this season will be closer to 9 or 10 pounds.

“We encourage our customers to fish high in the water - about 30- or 40-feet below the boat. The big snapper (10 to 15 pounds) usually will be holding high in the water column.
“Once we get our limit of red snapper, we’ll switch-over and start catching vermilion snapper and triggerfish. We’re also catching some red grouper and some scamp grouper. The gag grouper season doesn’t open until July 1st. We expect July to be a better month for grouper, since they’ve hardly had any fishing pressure the entire year.

“We’ve heard some complaints about the two-fish limit on American red snapper. But, I looked at my data from about 8-years ago, and at that time, our anglers could keep four red snapper per person. The average weight of those fish were 2-1/2-pounds each. Now, the average weight of the snapper we catch today, is between 7 and 10 pounds. So, years ago, if you caught four fish that weighed 2-1/2 pounds each, you would have had 10 pounds of fish. Today, if you catch two snapper that weigh 10-pounds-plus each, you’ll take home more snapper than when you could catch and keep four snapper. So, you’re getting more snapper for your money with a two-snapper limit, than you were getting with a four-snapper limit, and you can add-on some triggerfish and vermilion snapper to your catch.”

What about the Kings

King mackerel fiOrange Beach chartersshing started early this year, and Captain Boggs says, “It’s still excellent. The menhaden showed-up the first week in May. If you catch these menhaden, keep them alive and go-out to any of the public reefs, you probably can get your limit of king mackerel very easily. When some of our menhaden die, we take them out of the live-bait tank and put them out on the ice chest. Once we reach one of the reefs, we’ll start cutting-up the dead menhaden and using them for chum. Then we’ll hook-up a live menhaden on a light-wire leader and usually will hook-up a big king.”

How Are the Walk-Up Trips

Boggs’ walk-up trips leave at 8:00 am and run until 2:00 pm during May. But, during red snapper season, Boggs will be running two trips a day - one that leaves at 8:00 am and returns by noon and the second trip of the day, a 6-hour trip, that leaves at 1:00 pm and returns at 7:00 pm. “We have another 4-hour trip that leaves at 3:00 pm and comes back at 7:00 pm,” Boggs reports. “The 6-hour bottom fishing trip is $85 per person, and includes your license, bait and tackle. The 4 hour trip is $65 per person and includes your bait, tackle and license. Fish cleaning is available for 30 cents a pound, whole weight. Generally, our trips come together 1- or 2-days ahead of time, but if you call before 8:00 am on the day you want to go, we generally can find a spot for you. We also book trips as far as a month in advance.”

To contact Captain Randy Boggs, call him at 251-981-7173, or Orange Beach fishingemail him at www.reelsurprise.com, or visit www.reelsurprisecharters.com. The Orange Beach Fishing Association will be glad to find you and your family a captain and a boat that fits your needs. For more information about fishing guides and charter boats, lodging accommodations, restaurants and entertainment on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, call 800-745-SAND (7263), or visit www.orangebeach.com.