What's hot: It is typical at this time of the year for the first wave of the fall gag grouper migration to enter shallower waters north of Clearwater. Normally when water temperatures are in the mid to upper 80s, like they are now, most of these fish stay farther offshore in depths of 100 feet or more.
Locations: Areas of hard bottom in the 40- to 60-foot range will produce nice fish and will get better as the fall season approaches. Concentrate on smaller ledges and rock piles. The most productive spots will be away from areas frequented by the rest of the fleet. Finding these spots can sometimes require long hours of driving, searching for any signs of life. But if one of these desert oasis spots is found, it can pay off for years.
Tactics: Anchoring on these small spots takes time to master. Tide and wind have to be taken into consideration. Marker buoys are a helpful tool, but it is important to have just enough line out to hit the bottom and about 5 to 8 feet extra to compensate for sea conditions.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 or fintasticinc.com.