Getting offshore in recent weeks has been a challenge with high winds from cold fronts. Planning trips during this time of year is difficult, but a flexible schedule can result in fantastic conditions. We had a couple of days of exceptional conditions this past week as winds fell to nothing and the flat, calm seas looked something like a summer day. But a warm day doesn’t mean the fish are going to jump in the boat. The two major cold snaps in early January are still haunting us with some of the coolest water temperatures in a long time. On recent trips to depths of more than 100 feet, surface temperatures were in the mid 50s, which likely had temperatures on the bottom in the 40s. Red grouper are the main target offshore now, and they’re well adapted to warmer waters. But when temperatures drop this low, these fish tend to run deeper seeking more tolerable conditions. This is a problem now as gulf grouper anglers are prohibited in the take of any shallow-water grouper outside of the 20-fathom line (120 feet). The answer is a less-aggressive style of fishing. Normally we spend 15-20 minutes on a spot, but now it’s taking a bit longer to get these sluggish fish to take our offerings. Also, when we anchor, we drop a variety of baits such as live pinfish, frozen sardines, bonita strips and squid.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.