What's hot: On past trips we targeted sheepshead on the ledges and reefs in 30 feet. We used live shrimp as bait, though anglers fishing offshore seldom use shrimp (which is why anglers don't catch hogfish). This time we started at the Madeira Beach reef and anchored over a small piece of structure. We used small pieces of cut shrimp to get the sheepshead eating, but to our surprise, hogfish started feeding on the shrimp. And the hogs were not little. Most were in the 8- to 10-pound range. On future offshore trips, be sure to take a light-tackle rig and a few dozen shrimp.
Tackle: Rods should be rigged with 10- to 20-pound test, with 20-pound leaders 4 feet long. Slide a small egg sinker on the leader and let it sit against a 1/0 circle hook. Hook the shrimp under the horn or through the tail. When you feel pressure on the rod tip, set the hook.
Tip: One of the best ways to chum in deep water is to use a chum bomb. Fill a small paper bag with small pieces of cut shrimp. Place the weight on a heavy grouper rod in the bag and tape the bag shut. Drop the bag to the bottom and wait 5 minutes so the bag gets soft. Then jerk hard on the rod. The bag will break, dumping the chum on the spot you're fishing.
Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 347-1389.