What's hot: Targeting gag grouper in 20 to 40 feet is on everyone's mind whenever the weather allows venturing offshore. We were greeted by great weather every morning last week and decided to venture farther offshore. The same Swiss cheese hard bottom areas that were targeted during the summer remain home to red grouper, along with a surprising number of keeper gags. Ledges in the same areas give anglers a chance for several species, including amberjack, which are normally targeted over springs and wrecks, mangrove snapper, triggerfish and an abundance of catch-and-release red snapper (closed season).
Tip: Mangrove snapper are present wherever gag grouper are being caught, but they are caught incidentally because of the heavier tackle employed. Downsizing to 20-pound test class spinning or conventional tackle is necessary to target these wary bait-stealers. Use a quarter- to a half-ounce "knocker rig" — the sinker is allowed to ride next to the small circle hook without leader — along with a very small pinfish or piece of frozen sardine.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 397-8815.