What's hot: Deep-water bottom fishing will start to take center stage as hot August approaches. Water temperatures in depths inside 80 feet will continue to be less desirable to bottom species, which will start their push west in search of cooler water in the next few weeks. Because these fish sense the water warming, they are feeding aggressively in order to stock up fat for their push offshore. Look in depths of 60-90 feet to produce quality fish for the next week or so. Concentrate on hard ledges and coral outcroppings in these depths.
Technique: Live baits are a must, and hungry bottom species won't turn down too many of them. Remember, the total grouper limit is four per person and only two can be gags. Gag grouper are resilient. They can be found in the bay in as little as 5 feet of water all the way to the blue water in depths of more than 500 feet, which is something no other grouper can claim. They are very aggressive and take a variety of baits, including artificials. Vertical jigging is a fast-paced, well-proven method for catching these fish, even when they are in a finicky mood. This style of fishing induces what is called a "reaction strike," and it prays on the gags' aggressive nature.
Tips: Mangrove snapper are back in deeper water. Smaller live baits have been the key to catching them, but the bigger fish also have been attacking larger baits we put out for grouper. Last week we were in about 110 feet fishing a ledge when a flurry of monster "mangos" crashed the party. We caught eight fish ranging in size from 6 to 9 pounds. Snapper this size is uncommon. Look for these fish to make the move to deeper water with the grouper in the coming weeks.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.
Stephen F. Holder