Targets: Typically during January, offshore anglers enjoy the gag grouper migration that makes its way through our nearshore waters. This year is different, the fish are still prevalent but the emergency closure, effective Jan. 1, prevents the harvest of these fish in federal waters (starting 9 miles from shore in the gulf). So anglers will have to target some of the many other species the gulf has to offer:
• Gag grouper: Recreational fisherman can still harvest gag grouper in state waters (shore to 9 miles out in gulf) until Feb. 1. There are plenty of small rock piles and ledges holding good numbers of these fish now. The ledges in these depths are quite a bit smaller than the ones we usually find in the deeper water. Zoom in the range on your depth finder to get the best picture of the bottom. Any quick rise or fall in depth usually means limestone bottom and should be holding grouper.
• Red grouper: Per the regulations, anglers are still able to harvest other grouper, but most of these other grouper species are found a bit farther offshore. Look for a consistent red grouper bite in depths of 130 feet or more. Concentrate on hard-bottom areas, edges and roll-offs.
• Scamp grouper: The best depths for these delicious grouper is between 160 and 240 feet. Vertical jigs, such as Shimano's "butterfly jigs," work best.
• Amberjack: Look for good numbers of the larger (40-50 pounds) fish in depths of 150 feet or more. A fast-moving jig can work an entire school into a frenzy.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 or www.fintasticinc.com.