Red grouper fishing continues to be spotty in depths of 120-160 feet. During February and March these fish migrate well offshore around the 40 fathom curve in order to spawn. When they're done, they start pushing back inshore for the summer months. The main body of fish can be found in depths of 180-220 feet but as the gulf warms, look for them to start making their presence known in the 120-160 depths by the end of this month. Inshore of these depths there's a body of fish in 90-110 feet right now. Targeting large bait shows of vermillion snapper, we have secured fish in the 10- to 15-pound class. Live baits such as pinfish and grass grunts have been producing more bites than sardines, but if you're looking for the biggest and most aggressive fish on the spot, a 5- to 6-ounce vertical jig will get the job done. Spring patterns offshore are here with kingfish, blackfin tuna and cobia making their way into our area. On a recent trip offshore we decided tuna was the target, and after a quick sabiki session in the channel, we were off to 130 feet. After the anchor was deployed, a steady stream of cut sardines were drifting off the transom and the live cigar minnows and Spanish sardines were sent out. Typically it takes a bit to get something going, and this day was no exception. A few bonita were the first ones to the party, but we stuck with it and soon were rewarded with a great catch of tuna in the 25- to 30-pound range. When looking for these fish target areas around wrecks, springs or other large reliefs. Chumming is crucial, so make sure to bring or catch as much as possible. Rigs are quite simple with leader in the 25- to 40-pound range and a 5/0-7/0 circle hook.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.