Editor’s Note: Sonny Alawine, captain of the “Summer Breeze,” based out of Zeke’s Marina in Orange Beach, Alabama, has fished offshore from Orange Beach most of his life. The “Summer Breeze” has a long history of being a fish-catching machine.






Question: Sonny, what are you catching in February at Orange Beach?

Alawine: This month, our primary target is usually grouper. We generally go offshore on a 12-hour trip to catch the grouper. We also catch amberjack, beeliners (vermillion snapper), white snapper and triggerfish.

Question: What type of bait are you using to catch the grouper?

Alawine: We use live bait when we can get it, but we primarily fish with cut bait.

Question: What usually makes your best live bait for grouper?

Alawine: We prefer pinfish, beeliners, little white snapper, squirrel fish (small sea bass) and any type of small, live bait we can get.

Question: What kind of grouper are you catching?

Alawine: We catch red grouper, gag grouper and scamp. Our gag grouper will weigh up to 40 pounds at this time of year, but our average grouper will weigh about 12 to 20 pounds. The red grouper season is closed at the first of February, but it opens again at the end of the month.

Question: How big are the scamp you’re catching at this time of year?

Alawine: They’ll vary in size from about 2- to 10-pounds each.

Question: Sonny, how are you getting those grouper up in the boat?

Alawine: As a general rule, grouper like to live in rocks and reefs. So, as soon as they take the bait, the grouper like to run in some type of hole. Our fishermen really have to get after the grouper if they hook one. That first 10 feet coming off the bottom after someone hooks a grouper is the critical point in whether or not we’ll boat that grouper. The fishermen have to really wind that reel handle and pull up hard to get the grouper away from the bottom and up in open water where he or she can fight it. Many times if we’ve got a big grouper on the line, I’ll pull the boat forward a little bit to help the fisherman pull the grouper out of the rocks and the reefs.

Question: Tell me about the amberjack you’re catching offshore.

Alawine: When we find amberjack, they’ll be from barely legal keepers to 40- or 50-pound fish. They like to hold over big structure on the bottom or a big rock coming up off the bottom. We usually catch our amberjack on live baits. They like the same live baits the grouper do, so if we get lucky on a grouper trip, we usually can catch grouper and amberjack. We can catch and keep one amberjack per person, so we generally try to catch an amberjack for each customer.

February is also the time of year when we catch huge red snapper offshore. Because the red snapper season’s closed, we have to throw the red snapper back, but we still catch magnum-sized red snapper this month. We have so many red snapper in the Orange Beach area that staying away from red snapper is difficult. Our customers seem to really enjoy having their pictures made with a 10- to a 20-pound snapper, even if they have to throw them back. Last spring, before red snapper season opened, we caught and released 10 red snapper that weighed 20 pounds or more.

Question: How big are the white snapper in the Orange Beach region?

Alawine: The white snapper usually will weigh from 1/2- to 4-pounds each. The white snapper is in the aggregate of several species of fish of which you can keep up to 20. The beeliners (vermillion snapper) and triggerfish are also in that aggregate. This time of year, too, is when we catch magnum footballs, beeliners that will weigh from 2- to 4-pounds each. We usually catch those big beeliners in deeper water where we’re fishing for grouper and amberjack. When we had those two back-to-back hurricanes a couple of years ago, our triggerfish became really spotty. Before the hurricanes, the triggerfish normally showed-up really heavy in the fall and stayed pretty thick on the reefs and the wrecks until the middle of the summer. After the hurricanes, the triggerfish generally show up really strong for about 2 weeks, vanish for 1 or 2 weeks, and then come in strong again. So, the triggerfish are really hit or miss at this time of the year.

In February, you can have a great day of fishing for triggerfish, or you may not see a single one. We’ll also usually catch a few mangrove snapper. However, the fishing for mangrove snapper gets better as the water becomes warmer. We’ll start picking up a few king mackerel this month, but our heaviest run of king mackerel generally comes from about the end February to the first of March. For about 1 or 2 weeks in that time span, we’ll catch monster kings offshore that will weigh 40- to 60-pounds each. We generally drift-line fish for the kings with live bait or dead cigar minnows. Most of the time we’ll put out a drift line for king mackerel when we’re bottom fishing for amberjack and grouper. February can be great month for catching a lot of different types of fish and having a great day of fishing. Most of the time the weather isn’t too cold, and as long as we don’t get wind, fishing this month can be a lot of fun. So, y’all come on down for some great offshore February fishing.

To fish with Captain Sonny Alawine, contact him by mail at P.O. Box 612, Orange Beach, AL 36561, or call (251) 981-4082, or e-mail kittywakecharters@yahoo.com.