Light-tackle bottom fishing continues to improve with each passing cold front. Cooler weather and rough seas have been ushering quality-sized fish into shallower water, making them accessible for small boaters on the few calm days we've had recently. White grunts, hogfish, porgies and black sea bass can be targeted in depths of 20-50 feet using either live or frozen shrimp or pieces of squid. Frozen squid is a more durable bait than shrimp, however, it will limit the fish you catch. On the other hand everything likes shrimp, and although they cost more than squid, you can expand your target species to the hogfish, mangrove snapper and sheepshead. Use a small hook rigged on a 25- or 30-pound leader with a sliding sinker anywhere from 1-2 ounces depending on depth and current speed, all on the same-sized rod and reel you would use for redfish and snook inshore. Target the same hard-bottom locations where you would find grouper and you should have no trouble bringing back enough fish. Tripletail can be found hanging on the down-tide side of crab trap floats. The majority of the fish are small so don't waste much time casting to little ones as plenty of larger fish are around. A live shrimp suspended 1-2 feet beneath a float works almost every time.
Tyson Wallerstein runs Inshore Fishing Charters in the Clearwater/St. Petersburg area and can be reached at (727) 692-5868 and via email at flatsmonster.com.