Editor’s Note: Captain Mike Rowell of the “Annie Girl” docked at Zeke’s Marina in Orange Beach, Alabama, has been a charter-boat captain for over 18 years. This month, Rowell tells us how he fishes for wahoo, blackfin and yellowfin tuna, scamp, blue marlin and red grouper.




As long as our part of the Gulf of Mexico doesn’t get a really-hard freeze, or the weather stays really cold for a couple of weeks, we can catch both blackfin and yellowfin tuna all winter. The only time we can’t catch tuna is if we have unseasonably-cold weather, and the water temperature in the Gulf drops drastically. Our area also generally has a late-season run of wahoo, and they should be here in December. If the weather stays warm like it has the last few years, we still can catch big king mackerel this month. Too, our grouper fishery has gotten better.

When we go on an overnight tuna trip in December, we usually catch more blackfin tuna than yellowfin tuna. The blackfin tuna weigh about 10-pounds each, but the yellowfin average about 100 pounds. On a good trip, we’ll catch around about eight to 10 yellowfin tuna that weigh about 100-pounds each.

We also troll for wahoo on the way to or back from the tuna grounds. Too, there are some rigs in about 300 to 400 feet of water that generally hold wahoo. We also have really-good grouper and scamp trips at this time of year. Although the scamp are smaller than the grouper, they’re usually the best eating. A legal-sized scamp is 16 inches and will average 5 to 10 pounds. But we’ve caught scamp weighing from 15 to 25 pounds. A legal-sized gag grouper has to be 22-inches long. We generally catch gag grouper that average about 10 pounds, but we’ve caught some weighing 40 pounds.

We’ve had a really-productive year in 2008 for scamp, and we’re starting to see more red grouper than we have in years past. The red grouper moved in after one of the hurricanes, and for a while, the red grouper were on every spot we fished. Even though we’re not catching as many red grouper now as we were 2- to 3-years ago, we’re catching more than we were 5- to 10-years ago. Before the hurricane brought the red grouper to the area, finding a red grouper was rare in the waters we fished. Now we frequently catch red grouper.

A couple of weeks ago, we caught a white marlin on one of our overnight trips, and a friend of mine caught a blue marlin about a month ago. Many people don’t realize that the Gulf of Mexico still has productive marlin fishing in deep water all winter. The water temperature determines the type of fish we’ll catch. As long as the water temperature stays warm, we’ll have excellent fishing this month. The 2- or 3-day cold snaps don’t really bother the fish as much as a 2-week hard freeze. South of Orange Beach, we catch blue marlin every month of the year.

We also caught bull dolphins in November. As the water cools in December, the dolphins will begin to leave. The water temperature affects the dolphins more than any other species of fish.

I strongly encourage people to book overnight trips in December because that gives the captains the option of targeting several-different species. For instance, on a tuna-fishing trip, we have to travel 70 to 80 miles. If we try to make that run in one day or during an 18-hour trip, we’ll only get one chance to catch tuna. The tuna generally bite better early in the morning or late in the evening. So, with an overnight trip, we try to get the morning tuna bite and the evening tuna bite. If the tuna aren’t biting well, we’ll have plenty of time to fall back and catch reef fish like grouper, scamp, amberjacks and other species. Your odds of catching the fish you want to catch on a 2-day trip are probably five-times better than they are on a 1-day trip. A 2-day overnight trip out of Orange Beach is a great family Christmas present. You can take the trip before or after Christmas. These kinds of trips are adventures, and family members not only have chances to catch the biggest fish of their lives, but they also have opportunities to bring back plenty of fresh fish for a Friday night fish fry in the middle of winter.

To fish with Captain Mike Rowell, call (251) 981-2081, email mike@captainmikesfishing.com, or visit www.anniegirlcharters.com.