Rough start: The 18-mile ride out in the gulf Tuesday was comfortable, with the wind at our backs. However, after arriving at our destination, anchoring proved difficult because of a stronger than normal tide and a brisk southeast wind. The combination of sea, tide and wind made the situation a little rougher than we would have liked. But we found a good number of hungry red grouper and some large grunts. The sardine-and-squid bait combination got the fish going almost right away and provided nearly nonstop catching.
Moving on: After fishing this spot for about an hour, a group of small sharks moved in and shut down the grouper bite. It was time to find another place. I relocated the boat a quarter-mile east, and we resumed baiting, catching and releasing. A few more keeper red grouper went in the ice chest to keep company with the growing number of grunts. Soon it was time to go.
Parting shot: We had just racked the rods and tossed the remaining bait overboard when a large dark figure appeared under the boat. Everyone leaned over the side to see, waiting for the body to reappear. I recognized the hulk as a 25-foot whale shark, being escorted by a massive school of cobia. The cobia made a mad dash to gobble the falling pieces of bait while we scrambled to get rods rerigged with hooks and bait. But as suddenly as they appeared, they were gone.
Capt. Larry Blue charters the "Niki Joe" from Marlins Dockside at Johns Pass Marina on Treasure Island. Contact him at CaptainLarryBlue.com or by calling (727) 871-1058.