What's hot: With the water hovering around 55 degrees after recent cold fronts, offshore bottom fishing has required several changes. The catch, photo, and release fishing for gag grouper in 15 to 25 feet is at a standstill. White grunts and red grouper are also reluctant to feed. Travel to Swiss cheese bottom in 80 to 90 feet and deeper is necessary. White grunts, triggerfish and mangrove snapper tend to school on the larger ledges in these depths and will feed voraciously once activity starts. Anchor directly over the fish and start with small, 1/0 or 2/0 circle hooks baited with pieces of squid or octopus, and be patient.
Tip: Lowering a chum block in a chum cage to the bottom is very effective at this time of year. Another effective chumming method is to use a small biodegradable paper bag with small pieces of squid, cut bait, and sardines, tied to a sinker, lowered to the bottom and jerked up to open. The fish are still in shallower depths and their metabolism has slowed. Once water temperatures return to 60 degrees and above in shallower depths the bottom fish will feed heavily to make up for the inactivity.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.