Extremely foul weather can be both bad and good for offshore bottom fishermen. Obviously you do not want to head out in the 10- to 12-foot seas that occurred Sunday. The upside is that when the Gulf gets really churned up bottom fish such as red grouper move from wide areas of low hard bottom and gather around bigger rocks and holes seeking shelter from the swirling dirty water. This creates a great opportunity for the first fishermen after things settle down. Typically the fish have not fed much during the storm, and they are concentrated over particular spots. Last week we experienced great red grouper action outside 120 feet of water off Clearwater. As the residual swell starts to come down, expect an outstanding bite. At prospective rock patches, you may not see a big show of grouper on the sonar. Often they are holding right on the bottom or in holes. Anchor, and a layer of grouper will sense the boat and rise from the bottom to investigate. With small red snapper around, use really big live baits. Frozen sardines or small cut bait is continually nibbled off. Huge pinfish or grunts can make it down past the nibblers.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at email@example.com.