What's hot: Although water temperatures remain higher than normal for this time of year, gag grouper have made their annual fall transition into shallower water. We've had great success recently catching gags in less than 20 feet.
Technique: When targeting gags in that depth, our methods are much different from those used farther offshore. One of my favorite things is to load the livewell with scaled sardines on the way out. The coveted baitfish usually can be found in big numbers along the beach in the fall. Anchor upcurrent from the shallow rock pile or patch of hard bottom and begin chumming back toward the spot with handfuls of crippled sardines. The most important part is not fishing for at least 10 minutes as the fish feed on the wobbling chummers. You will definitely catch more if you let them eat for a while with no lines in the water. On a recent trip off North Pinellas, we had numerous keeper gags jumping out of the water as they hit the spinning baitfish on the surface.
Tackle: For this style of fishing, spinning tackle is best, primarily because casting is required. I rig my shallow-water grouper rods with 40-pound monofilament line and 3 feet of 60-pound monoleader. When the fish are really hot, don't use sinkers, merely cast a freelined pinfish into the frenzy and hang on. When things settle down, add a half-ounce sinker to force baits to the bottom.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs and can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 944-3474.