Red grouper season closes Thursday. This regulation was a surprise since in May the bag limit was reduced in order to ensure a longer season for anglers. On the main stage for October and November are king mackerel and gag grouper. Both species prefer water temperatures in the 70s and both are a little behind schedule due to warmer-than-normal water temperatures. There are scattered reports of good numbers of gag grouper well north of us. These fish will make their push to the south and will be in our area after about the third or fourth cold front. They will continue their way south of us to about the Naples area before turning to the west in late February or March. As for now, look in depths of 40-90 feet for gags. Target the ledges, and live bait is an absolute must. As far as kings go, look for them around the larger artificial reefs and wrecks in depths of 50-70 feet. Key on spots that are holding large amounts of bait, such as Spanish sardines, cigar minnows or blue runners. As the water cools to the mid 70s, we should be invaded by the main push of these speedy critters. Stinger rigs are usually the go-to rig for kings, but as the water cools and becomes clear, I typically move down to a small 6-inch trace of wire connected to the mono without a swivel and a 3/0-4/0 main hook in order to maximize the bites in those conditions.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.