Monday, February 19, 2018
Outdoors

Captain's Corner: Gag grouper fishing awaits with cooler temperatures

Sooner or later, hot summer temperatures will give way to cooler fall conditions. When nearshore water temperatures drop below 80, gag grouper fishing usually picks up in shallow water and remains good until the close of the season at the end of the year. For many years guides and commercial fishermen have theorized this uptick in fall and winter gag grouper fishing was due to an influx of fish from deeper water. While there is likely some such movement, current research hints at something different. New data shows many gags remain in relatively shallow water all summer, so it's possible they are present when the water is hot but don't feed actively until the fall. For several years researchers from the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg have been tagging gags with acoustic transmitters at specific sites. Devices that monitor these "pinger" equipped fish are placed on the bottom on each spot, then retrieved by divers several times per year. Preliminary data has shown that, on average, gag grouper remain in the exact same location for 100 days or more, many through the winter and into the summer. At least one gag has remained in the exact same location for over a year. What does this mean for anglers? One tip is avoid the "favorite spot" approach. With such little gag movement, fishing the same spot every Saturday is going to have diminishing returns. Along those lines, always scout for new locations. With gags gathering slowly over long periods of time, there's simply nothing better than a fresh new spot.

Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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