Editor’s Note: Late August and September are the times to catch big fish at the Gulf of Mexico. Captain Ben Fairey of the charter boat “Necessity,” based at Orange Beach Marina in Orange Beach, Alabama, has been running 10-hour and 12-hour trips, to catch amberjacks, monster-sized grouper, scamp, wahoo and king mackerel.

From the time we leave Perdido Pass, we’re fishing. We usually run 30- or 40-miles offshore. On the way out and the way back, we put-out high-speed trolling lures and fish for wahoo, king mackerel and blackfin tuna. We recently caught a yelloOrange Beach charterswfin tuna using this tactic. We catch vermilion snapper and white snapper as well as some red snapper that we have to release. But, our targets are amberjacks, grouper and scamp.

The secret to catching an amberjack is having really-good live bait. We like to use threadfin herring, menhaden or a big pinfish. We’ll often use a 12-foot fluorocarbon leader coming-off a barrel swivel that’s tied to the main line that has a slip sinker on it. We use a long leader to allow our bait to swim-away from the slip sinker. The places we look for amberjacks are large wrecks, artificial reefs or out on the edges of large underwater rocks. I have a split-screen depth finder that allows me to see the entire water column from the bottom to the top. Then, on the other side of the screen, I get a close-up view from the bottom, up to 30-feet off the bottom. I usually spot the amberjacks about halfway up in the water column. For instance, if we’re fishing over a 200-foot bottom, the amberjacks usually will hold at a depth of about 100-feet – the middle column of the water. When we’re fishing for scamp, we use smaller bait and lighter tackle to fish closer to the bottom. The scamp is a part of the grouper family, but it doesn’t get nearly as big as the gag grouper, the black grouper or the warsaw grouper. We like live, small LYs (alewives) or pinfish when we’re fishing for scamp.

The Bigger Grouper

To catch the bigger grouper, we use much-heavier tackle and different baits. We like to butterfly a big baitfish by removing the backbone and just leaving the fillets attached to the head. If you’re fishing a spot that doesn’t have amberjacks on it, you can try using big, live bait. But, if you’ve got amberjacks on the spot where you’re fishing for grouper, most of the time, the amberjacks will attack and eat your live bait, before you can get it down to the grouper. When we’re grouper fishing, we like to Orange Beach chartersuse 125-pound-test braided line for the main line with 20-pounds of drag on the reel. The lightest leader I use for grouper is 80-pound test. If my customer’s lines are breaking, I’ll use a 125-pound-test. I’ll usually use a 9/0 circle hook or bigger and on about 4 or 5 feet of leader line. The secret to catching big grouper is when you hook that grouper, you’ve got to reel really hard and get the fish away from the structure. Once you have a grouper 20-feet off the bottom, you can slow-down and play the fish. But, by the time a big grouper gets about halfway to the surface, it usually will start floating. That’s when you have to reel very fast to take-up the slack, to keep from losing the fish.

When we’re fishing for scamp, we use 50-pound-test main line with a slip sinker up the line, a barrel swivel below the sinker and about 4 or 5-feet of 50-pound-test fluorocarbon leader. We’ll probably be using a 7/0 circle hook, because the scamp grouper isn’t nearly as big as the Warsaw grouper, black grouper or the gag grouper. All these offshore fish are hard-fighting, delicious-eating and fun-to-catch. So, plan to go fishing with us.

To go fishing with Captain Ben Fairey, call (251) 747-5782, or call his booking agent, Stella Fill, at (251) 981-4510, or visit www.necessitysportsfishing.com.

Grilled Grouper with Black Bean Salsa

Alabama anglers were so excited when gag grouper season opened in July, and it doesn’t close until the end of October. Nothing tastes better than freshly-caught fish.

Ingredients:Orange Beach fishing
1/4-cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4-cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
1-1/2-teaspoons brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
6 grouper fillets (4-ounces each)

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 medium sweet red pepper, diced
1/2-cup seedless red grapes, chopped
1/4-cup fat-free Italian salad dressing
1 tablespoon canned chopped green chilies
1 teaspoon brown sugar

In a small bowl, combine the broth, soy sauce and brown sugar. Set aside 2 tablespoons mixture for basting. Stir garlic into remaining mixture. Place in a large resealable plastic bag; add the grouper. Seal bag, and turn to coat; refrigerate for 30 minutes, turning occasionally. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the salsa ingredients. Cover, and chill until serving. Drain, and discard marinade. Using long-handled tongs, moisten a paper towel with cooking oil and lightly coat the grill rack. Place grouper skin side down on grill rack. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 10-12 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork, basting occasionally with reserved broth mixture. Serve with salsa.