What's hot: Warming waters have brought a variety of migratory baitfish back to the bay area. Scaled sardines, threadfin herring and cigar minnows have gathered from the beaches out to 50 miles and beyond. Cigar minnows are usually found close to the bottom; the others are primarily surface-feeders.
Tips: Red grouper often are found with cigar minnows. Reds generally remain in small areas for long periods. When bottom-hugging cigar minnows show up, however, reds might follow. One strategy for big reds is to fish where your sonar marks pods of bait on the sea floor. Depths of 80-200 feet are best. Even if there are no bottom features, fishing on random bait stacks often produces reds. These "roamers" are big, from 8-20 pounds.
Techniques: Do not anchor on bait stacks. Hold the boat over the school. If you do not get a fish in one or two drops, move on. Larger sinkers of 8-10 ounces will help keep your line vertical and get it to the bottom quicker. Rig your bait so it runs straight through the water while descending. Bait that spins on the way down usually tangles your rig.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at (727) 944-3474.