Editor’s Note: Captain John Hollingshead of the “Miss Hollie” docked at Old Salt’s Dock across the street for the Florabama Lounge in Orange Beach, Alabama, has been a U.S. Coast Guard licensed charter-boat captainand a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certified diver for 25 years. This month, he’ll tell us how to catch white snapper, red snapper, vermilion snapper, triggerfish, amberjacks, Spanish mackerel and king mackerel.


This month we’re catching everything except red snapper. Well, that’s not true. We’re catching plenty of red snapper, but we have to throw them back. We’re able to bring in white snapper, vermilion snapper, triggerfish and amberjacks. If the water stays warm, we’ll also catch Spanish mackerel and king mackerel. The Spanish mackerel we catch now are 18 to 28 inches and weigh an average of 2 to 3 pounds. I fish trolling areas where I always can catch Spanish and kings, if the mackerel are holding there. Many times, if you see birds working and diving on baitfish, you’ll also see Spanish or king mackerel breaking the surface, chasing the bait. If the water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico remains above 61 degrees, the mackerel will stay here. But when the water temperature drops below 61 degrees, the mackerel will leave that area.

Fortunately, when the Spanish mackerel move out, the redfish will move into the region. We usually can catch redfish right off Orange Beach within the 3-mile limit in December. At this time of year, the big bull reds will move with the cold weather, and when we locate these fish, there generally will be a school of them. Although we primarily catch-and-release big reds, we also try to find schools of little reds within the slot limit. This month, you can catch the biggest redfish of your life, and you may even catch several giant bull reds.

Right now, we have plenty of vermilion snapper (beeliners), white snapper and triggerfish holding on natural bottom in this section of the Gulf. We try not to fish the artificial reefs because they’re usually loaded-up with red snapper that we can’t catch and keep. Unfortunately, we’re still catching red snapper on natural bottom, even though we have to throw them back. In the past, the red snapper didn’t hold on natural bottom. But since the National Marine Fisheries Service reduced the bag limit, increased the length limit and shortened the season for the red snapper, you can find them in numbers of places where they haven’t normally concentrated in the past. So, we try to locate places we can fish where our customers can catch fish they can keep. The vermilion snapper and the white snapper we keep are generally 12 inches or bigger, and the triggerfish run 14 inches or larger. In one day of December fishing, we’ll catch a pretty-good mixed bag of fish. Luckily, we’ve been catching grouper on the natural bottoms. When we fish for grouper, we usually go out 20 miles or more.

If you go to almost any big wreck, you often can find amberjacks. To catch the amberjacks, we fish with live bait higher up in the water than where the snapper usually hold. We generally fish two rods at one time for amberjacks, until we catch one amberjack per person. Amberjacks will show-up as big blobs on your depth finder about 30 feet above the bottom. Sometimes if you’re fishing in 120 feet of water, the amberjacks will show-up above 190 feet. Because our electronics are more high-tech and advanced, when we pull onto a spot, I can identify the type of fish holding there by the marks they’ve left in the area. So, when we move over a site, I usually can tell if that section is holding amberjacks, vermilion snapper, white snapper, triggerfish or redfish. These new depth finders have helped the captains determine what types of fish hold on a particular area before the fishermen even let their lines down, which enables us to better target the species we want to catch. Fishing is good right now in December. And, we’ve got plenty of fish anglers can catch in a half- or a full-day fishing trip. So, come on down, and fish with us.

To fish with Captain John Hollingshead, visit www.chartermisshollie.com, call (850) 554-4313, or email misshollie@cox.net.