What's hot: Bottom fishing offshore this time of year takes a little more planning than in cooler months. The water temperature is climbing, and the grouper are a bit slow to feed. The best advice is to get on the water as early as possible. Grouper and snapper will be the most active early in the morning until early afternoon, then the bite usually slows until the late afternoon when they feed heavily again until dark. This time of year, the use of live bait is imperative.
Tactics: Locating these fish is also more difficult this time of year because without the wind that storms and fronts bring, these fish tend to spread out on hard-bottom areas in search of food. Sometimes you will find an area covered with grouper and snapper and loaded with bait. Then the next time you come to that area it is a desert. The reason? When not holding on structure, these fish will follow the bait schools wherever they move.
Sometimes this happens over a vast area of sand where you would think there is no chance for a grouper. Surprisingly, there have been scattered areas lately in shallower water that have paid off with great catches of red and gag grouper. It is unusual for this time of year, but because of all of the bait schools in 60- to 90-foot depths this season, there have been fish there as well.
Lastly, have a good idea what the weather is doing. Afternoon thunderstorms are building and sometimes can catch you by surprise. So be sure to tune in the weather often while you are out and keep an eye on the sky.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at fintasticinc.com or (727) 642-3411.