Short trips and quick limits: Gag grouper have remained close to shore and in the mouth of Tampa Bay. The edge of the ship channel and debris have been producing numerous keepers. Nearshore rock piles and ledges from 20 to 35 feet of water have been good. There are a lot of small fish, but by using large baits, anglers can find plenty of legal-sized fish.
Best baits: The largest live pinfish, squirrelfish and cut ladyfish and mullet produced best. Many of the largest fish the past week came on ladyfish cut in half and live squirrelfish as long as 12 inches. These larger baits, fished with mandatory circle hooks, worked best with a slide sinker to allow for the fish to swallow the bait and move away before coming tight to set the hook.
Tips: The cold fronts have been numerous, but the days preceding their arrival have brought light winds from the southeast. These have been the days that have produced limit catches without getting out of sight of land. As always this time of year, watch the forecast and make sure all safety equipment and radios are in good working condition. With water temperatures in the low 60s, survival times in the event of an accident are greatly reduced.
Troy P. Sapp with Fins and Tails Guide service can be reached at (813) 920-6928.