What's hot: Bottom fishing was as good as it gets before the cold front blew in with strong winds that prevented us from venturing offshore. Among our rewards: Many would-have-been-keeper gag grouper if the season had not been closed. Red grouper until that season closed. White grunts that provided nonstop action on light and ultralight tackle. Mangrove snapper that fall prey to the lighter tackle and different baits we were employing. And triggerfish that met the 14-inch fork-length requirement, along with red snapper that were kept only on film.
Tactics: It is not necessary to venture farther than 55 to 60 feet out. Catch, photo and release action for red and black grouper can be found, along with the opportunity to catch plenty of fish for the table. Before the red grouper season closed, we ventured to the 100-foot depths we normally fish in the summer. Several stops produced disappointing results, with a few short red grouper and much smaller grunts than we were catching inshore.
Tip: Downsizing to 10- to 20-pound tackle, smaller weights and hooks puts the "sport" in sport fishing.
Dave Zalewski charters Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at Luckytoo2@aol.com or (727) 397-8815.