Summertime offshore fishing in the Gulf of Mexico—dodge those thunderstorms and you’ll have a good chance of tugging on big grouper, snapper, amberjack and other big reef/wreck species. Cool, no doubt, but there’s a whole other layer of offshore fun that anglers often miss because they’re over-powered on their tackle and baits.
Triggerfish, vermillion snapper, porgies, lane snapper, Key West grunts, yellowtail snapper—a rainbow of light tackle species, all good table fare, crowd the lower levels of offshore hard bottom sites. Larger specimens may occasionally turn up on those slip sinker rigs deployed for heftier species, but if you want to target some diversity on your next offshore trip, don’t be chicken.
Actually, you want to use a chicken—a chicken rig, that is.
Essentially a set of two or three 2/0 circle hooks on dropper loops with a weight hanging from a leader below, the chicken rig plays upon the natural schooling behavior and inherent feeding competition of these fish by hanging a cluster of easily devoured baits at eyeball level.
Functioning something like a bass angler’s dropshot rig, the chicken rig’s leader can be adjusted to make the bait’s stand at a certain depth off the bottom to line up with where the fish are holding.
Catching fish two or three at a time is no rarity and often there’ll be a different species on each hook.