With water temperatures still in the mid 80s, fall fishing patterns are a bit behind. Look for red and gag grouper to stay in 100- to 150-foot depths until water temps hit the mid 70s. Red grouper fishing in 120 to 160 feet is very consistent; they will move east soon. We have been finding good numbers on harder bottom and breaks as opposed to under large bait schools where we normally find them. Live bait is key and should remain so until these fish make their way into 80- to 90-foot depths in November. If you prefer gag grouper, we'll have a longer run this month. Look for the most gag grouper in 200 to 400 feet. Concentrate on areas such as the 40-fathom curve, a break that runs basically from the Florida Keys all the way to the northern gulf and offers a bounty of large gag and scamp grouper. Weave along the ledge looking for stacks of fish to fill up quickly, but heavy tackle is a must as some of these fish can eclipse 50 pounds. Large live baits such as grunts, pinfish and squirrelfish will drive these fish wild. Offshore last week we were rewarded on almost every trip with great catches of blackfin tuna. Bait took a bit of time as we had to catch it offshore because Red Tide scattered the pilchards inshore. A quick stop in the Shipping Channel with sabiki rigs and we were off. Live chumming is best for targeting these fish. We targeted areas holding large numbers of flying fish and grass offshore in 120 to 140 feet.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.