Grouper fishing inside 160 feet continues to be a challenge due to the proximity of the new moon. This moon phase has the currents offshore moving at a pace that would rival a small river. Look for the bite to improve as we move away from this phase. That said, the bite offshore of the 160 foot-depths is very consistent with large gag, red and scamp grouper. The past month has yielded many large male gag grouper for us as heavy as 50 pounds. Fishing in deeper water while the current is moving takes a little more tackle preparation. Braid is preferred over monofilament due to the thinner diameter; it will cut through the water much easier, allowing you to use less weight, which makes it much easier to hold bottom. Longer leaders are another tactic that will entice a bite faster because they allow a greater range of movement for bait. While fishing these depth, it is always a good idea to run a flat line off the stern while you are anchored bottom fishing. In the past, this extra rod has been responsible for great bonus fish, such as tuna, mahi and wahoo. There are basically two setups for this rod. One is a 6/0-7/0 circle hook attached to a length of 30- to 40-pound leader. This works well for critters with minimal teeth. The other is an 8- to 12-inch length of wire attached to a 5/0-6/0 J-hook. This rig will take care of wahoo and king mackerel. Make sure that no matter which rig you choose, it has enough line on the reel, because fighting a big fish from an anchored boat can limit you from chasing it down.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.