In the aftermath of Hurricane Hermine, fishing offshore will not be the same. Waves cresting at 20-25 feet and fast-moving water had the reef fish looking for cover. Another effect that many people do not consider is a large shift in salinity due to huge amounts of freshwater deposits in one area of the gulf. This causes pelagic species to look for better water conditions for a week or so. In the grouper and snapper category, look at higher relief structures such as wrecks. Concentrate your efforts in depths no less than 80 feet for a while as the clarity inshore will be pretty bad for a week or so. If you fish in the shallower water, I suggest a mix of sardines, squid and other assorted cut baits as this is the only way fish will be able to find food in dirty water. If weather permits and you have the vessel to do so, a trip to areas such as the Elbow and the Middle Grounds is a good bet. Large breaks should be holding good numbers of gag grouper for at least a week or two. Pelagic species such as tuna, mahimahi and wahoo will take a bit more of a run for a while. Before the storm, we located great fishing in the 200- to 400-foot depths. Deeper or shallower water was green and lifeless. Looking at water temperatures offshore should give you a key on where this "blue water" has gone. Again, it should take a few days for the currents to return to normal, so a wait-and-see approach will help you not waste fuel and time running around looking for good water. Generally after a storm passes, the Intracoastal Waterway and offshore waters are littered with floating debris. Some can be large enough to damage or sink a boat, so keep your eyes open when running and try to avoid running in the dark.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.