As is usually the case this time of year, red grouper are following the juvenile sardines that are heading east from the depths. These tiny sardines are about a half-inch to three-quarters long and will completely black out your bottom machine when you pass over them offshore. Every species out there with a tail will be gorging themselves on these tiny treats as they head east during these late-summer months. While most of us concentrate our efforts on hard-bottom areas while we are fishing, don't forget to keep an eye on your recorder as you head both offshore and inshore. Occasionally you will find giant schools over sand with unbelievable amounts of grouper and snapper underneath them. On a recent trip we marked a giant school, marked them, then anchored right over them. We caught a boat-limit of red grouper and mangrove snapper off that one school, which was literally over nothing but sand. Look in depths of 150 feet or more for your pelagic fix. Springs, wrecks and large structure in the deeper water are teaming with blackfin tuna. Live chum is the key to getting these fish on ice. The note will always start off with a wide open bonita bite, then a tuna will eat. After a handful of fish you will find the tuna will take over the note and push the bonita away. Use 25- to 40-pound leader and a 6/0-7/0 circle hook.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.