Grouper Open

It’s opening day of grouper season and, for Capt. Justin Leake and one of his longtime fishing buddies, that means a trip offshore is in order. And what better way to break in a new boat than heading to some reefs and filling the cooler with one of the Gulf of Mexico’s most popular fish?

“This is the perfect way to kick off the summer season,” says Capt. Leake. “I like nothing better than loading up on a really nice boat with some solid folks and going fishing.”

Justin has spent many hours fishing with his old friend Ashley Smith over the years and today they’re joined by a new generation of anglers – Ashley’s son Jonah and nephew Brent. After a quick stop at the floating bait barge, Ashley points his new Yellowfin toward deep water.

Before long, they encounter a large area of floating sargassum seaweed and make an unplanned stop. These experienced anglers know seaweed often holds fish such as mahi mahi, cobia, triple tail and other species. “This is exactly why you bring a wide variety of tackle and a lot of baits,” says Capt. Leake. “Even when you have a really good game plan, you need to be willing to fish a different spot at any second.”

Later, the group finds plenty of action at an artificial reef offshore. For the youngsters, it’s a thrill no video game can deliver. “One of the fun things about taking kids fishing is seeing their excitement,” says Justin. “Even if their technique isn’t perfect, they’re giving it 110 percent and cranking on that reel as hard as they can.”

A few groupers and even some blackfin tuna make the day a success, but it’s an epic battle with a powerful predator that makes the day truly memorable.

Also, we check out bagpipes, heavy hammers, cabers and kilts at the Panama City Beach Scottish Festival.