What's hot: Red snapper season may be closed but there still are plenty of good reasons for anglers to make the long run out to deep water. Fishing for gag and red grouper, scamp, mangrove snapper and a host of other bottom fish has been outstanding in 150 feet and deeper. Those depths have also been holding pelagic species such as blackfin tuna, small mahi and occasional wahoo.
Technique: Much of the best bottom fishing has been over very low, nondescript patches of hard bottom in water as deep as 225 feet. At these depths it is difficult to see these critical but subtle differences in the sea floor on the sonar. For the best image, "shift" the screen view down to where it shows just the lower 40 feet or so of the water column. Then turn the "gain" up about 25 percent higher than you would use in shallower water. This will allow you to see more things, such as fish or patches of hard bottom. Many tiny patches have been pure magic lately.
Tips: We have had success with larger gag grouper by using long leaders between the slip sinker and the bait. Lengths of 6 feet or more produced numerous gags over 20 pounds last week. The largest was 33 pounds. By keeping the bait away from the sinker, the wary big gags have been more likely to strike.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at lighttacklecharters.com or at (727) 944-3474.