Inshore: Along with a medium-weight spinning outfit, a supply of 1/0 circle hooks and splitshot are all that needed to target sheephead. Shrimp and sand fleas can be purchased from bait shops, but the choice baits — crabs, barnacles, oysters and green mussels — are free. Small crabs can be found by turning over exposed rocks at low tide. Barnacles, oysters and mussels can be scraped into a bucket from pilings and seawalls. Oysters are both bait and chum. They can be opened using a hammer after placing them on a cement block. The oyster is bait, and the pieces of shell is chum. Almost any dock, seawall with a rocky area or bridge piling that has good tidal flow will harbor these great tasting fish.
Offshore: When the weather allows anglers offshore, gag grouper are the fish of choice. Historically when the water temperature reaches 60 degrees or below, the fish that usually congregate in 20- to 30-foot depths move offshore to 50 to 60 feet and become sluggish. Target larger ledges, as the turbulent water caused by cold fronts forces the fish to seek shelter. It may be necessary to sit on a spot longer than usual using squid and cut sardines to get the bite started because the cold water slows the fishes' metabolic rate.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.