What's hot: This is a favorite time of year for many anglers. Water temperatures are slowly falling and fish are cooperating, no matter the species. Grouper continue to migrate into shallow, bait-rich waters between 50 and 90 feet. Large schools of Spanish sardines and cigar minnows have taken residence on most ledges in these depths, thus so have the grouper.
Tips: Have a variety of baits for a good trip. I have been on ledges where fish would not eat any live pinfish or pigfish, but were inhaling live sardines or squirrelfish. This is because these areas have an abundance of these baits and the fish in the area have grown accustomed to eating them.
Tackle: To target shallow-water gag grouper, it is better to have too much than not enough. Try 80-pound tackle to dig these fish from their ledges. Shorter leaders and light leads will also lead to more fish and fewer breakoffs. The first thing a gag will do when it feels the pressure of the hook is run for the nearest rock or hole. Lock down the drag on the reel for a better chance of landing these fish.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.