Lower water temperatures have gotten shallow-water grouper going. Keeper-sized gag grouper can be targeted in water as shallow as 15 feet via trolling or bottom fishing. The shipping channel around the Sunshine Skyway bridge has long been known for harboring plenty of winter gag grouper. Most anglers prefer to troll the edges of the channel with either deep diving plugs or a combination of a 3-ounce bucktail jig pulled behind a No. 3 planer. You also can target shallow-water gag grouper in hard-bottom and limestone ledges a few miles from shore; trolling will give you the best chance to find them. Most ledges run north-south. This is why you see crab-trap floats of the same family all in line running parallel to the shoreline. Usually, crab fishermen put their traps right next to the breaks because hard-bottom areas are more likely to hold crab than sand.
Tyson Wallerstein runs Inshore Fishing Charters in the Clearwater/St. Petersburg area and can be reached at (727) 692-5868 and via email at flatsmonster.com.