Offshore grouper hauling Perhaps no other culinary dish exemplifies the Gulf Coast as much as a fried grouper sandwich. And the best way to ensure it is the freshest fish available? Catch it yourself. Offshore grouper fishing is a favorite for a lot of anglers because it represents a test of wills. Gulf grouper have earned the reputation for being voracious eaters and pugnacious fighters once hooked. The grouper was the fish of choice for legendary New York Yankees slugger Babe Ruth when he would arrive each year for spring training. He admired the tenacious fight of the fish and the large, rotund and somewhat homely reef inhabitant was said to remind him of himself. And, let's not forget, they are delicious to eat. According to the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council, commercial and recreational fishermen were allowed to catch 3.4 million pounds of gag grouper this past year. But the oil spill could put additional pressure on a population that has already been depleted by overfishing. Since grouper are a bottom-dwelling fish that live sometimes hundreds of miles offshore, they can be especially vulnerable to oil that has been treated with chemical dispersants that has sunk to the sea floor even if the slick never reaches the shores of the Gulf. Netting for mullet With all the great options for catching and eating fish in this state, it is easy to overlook the lowly mullet. But don't forget it was the state of Florida, with a little help from Alabama, that gave the world the hallowed sport of 'mullet tossing.' And smoked black mullet, although a bit of an acquired taste, has been a Florida staple since the turn of the century.
These oft-maligned fish can reach a few pounds each and can travel in schools of up to a hundred, and since they are vegetarian, the only way to catch them is with a cast net. (Although some contend that you can catch them using tiny hooks and sweet peas or extremely tiny flies.) Using your castnet to corral more than bait can be an enjoyable experience, especially when done on a scenic locale like Cockroach Bay. The act of stalking and catching a school of black mullet is a cross between pheasant hunting and calf roping and provides a nice change from the standard rod and reel method. So, while the mullet isn't the sexiest of catches, it is definitely a Florida phenomenon and chances are you would probably miss them if they were gone. Fishin' the flats Fishing the grass flats is the official pastime for most anglers on the Gulf Coast and should be an automatic inclusion for any sportsman's Gulf "bucket list." By boat or by kayak, or even just wading out, there are infinite possibilities as to how to fish on the flats - and nearly as many options on what to catch. A day on the flats can lead to redfish, snook, trout, pompano, flounder, bluefish, whiting, snapper and much more. How long that lasts is anyone's guess as the oil makes its way further and further toward the Gulf stream with the capability of destroying everything in its wake. "So if you want to go to the Keys lobstering and haven't, or gone up north around Crystal River and Homosassa scalloping and haven't, fished or snorkeled or dove anywhere and haven't, you better go now while it's still here," Nobles said.