If you think about the enjoyment of delicious fresh tuna cooking on the grill while you’re watching your favorite football game on a Sunday afternoon, you’ll realize how much your friends, family and business associates will enjoy a tuna-fishing trip as a Christmas present.
December is tuna time in Mississippi, but it’s also snapper and grouper time. Although red snapper season has ended, you’ll find some of the biggest, prettiest and tastiest snapper you’ll ever want to catch now. And you can catch them legally.
“We’re catching 8- to 12-pound mangrove snapper offshore this month,” said Capt. Rimmer Covington of the Mexican Gulf Fishing Company. “They’re fairly easy to catch, fun to wind-in and delicious to eat. You can keep 10 big mangrove snapper and have a great snapper-fishing trip right here at Christmas time.
“Throw in a few grouper, a couple of 150-pound yellowfin tuna, six or eight blackfin tuna and three or four wahoo, and you’ll bring home a boatload of fish. Everyone else in Mississippi will be trying to get ducks to come into their spreads and deer to walk under their tree stands, while you’re enjoying yourself on the water and later having delicious fish.”
Most people don’t realize that the big fish pile-up off Mississippi’s Gulf Coast in December.
“Our average-sized wahoo will weigh 50-75 pounds this month, and our yellowfin tuna are consistently 100 pounds or more during December,” Covington said.
Covington locates wahoo around any structure like oil rigs, underwater wrecks or buoys in 180-400 feet of water. Although you don’t have to have blue water to catch wahoo, these fish do prefer clean water. Where you see baitfish, that’s where to start trolling for wahoo.
“I pull a Deep 25+ pink MirrOLure rigged with 24 inches of 135-pound single-strand wire leader,” Covington said. “Another productive lure is Mann’s Stretch 30+ in blue/chrome or pink. We also use Yo-Zuri Bonitas in purple/black.”
Covington usually pinpoints the wahoo in 10- to 30-foot-deep water. On an average trip, he expects to land 60 to 70 percent of the wahoo that take his bait. On a good day, he’ll have 10 to 15 wahoo bites.
“December is a transitional month for tuna,” Covington said. “At the first of the month, we’ll be fishing rigs in 600 feet of water or less with hardtails, if we can get them. We’ll be hooking the hardtails up to No. 9/0 Demon Circle Hooks from Mustad and 15-foot-long 80-pound fluorocarbon leader. We’re flatlining the hardtails. We usually have out three baits and troll slowly.”
On a typical day of tuna fishing this month, Covington and his party generally will hook up one or two of these at least 100-pound fish.
“If we get four to six tuna a day, we’re having a great day, but sometimes we only catch one to three,” Covington said. “We also may get an occasional late-season marlin or dolphin bite, but those aren’t common.”
Although many anglers consider the yellowfin tuna as the glamour fish of the Gulf of Mexico, don’t overlook the blackfin tuna in December when fishermen take many more blackfins than yellowfins.
“We catch a lot of blackfin tuna in December when we’re fishing for yellowfins,” Covington said. “The blackfin tuna will weigh 15-30 pounds. Usually when the yellowfin bite is good, the blackfin will be hitting just as aggressively. During the winter months, when you’re fishing offshore, you’ll often catch much bigger tuna and wahoo than you do in the spring and summer.”
December’s also grouper month offshore.
“We catch gag grouper, scamp grouper and Warsaw grouper this month,” Covington said. “We’re fishing wrecks, rigs and natural bottom in deep water — 200 feet or more — for the grouper. We try to mix-up the day for our fishermen. The same area we fish for wahoo and tuna, we fish for grouper. Also, we can pick up those mangrove snapper that everyone likes to catch and eat.”
Rigs and procedures
Covington fishes out of a 2010 39-foot Sea Vee with triple 350-horsepower four-stroke Yamaha engines. He cruises at about 50 m.p.h., and can run up to 64 m.p.h., which gets him out to deep water quickly. Then he and his anglers can spend plenty of time fishing and return to Biloxi in a hurry. To reach the deep rigs, he only has to run 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
He docks at two places — the Isle of Capri in Biloxi and Shaggy’s Harbor Bar and Grill in Pass Christian.
Outdoorsmen may tell their wives that they’re going hunting this month to put meat in the freezer. However, if you offshore fish this month, you may put more food in the freezer and enjoy yourself more during a day in Mississippi’s great outdoors.
To fish with the Mexican Gulf Fishing Company, call (601) 951-3908.