What to see: Grouper have started their annual migration offshore in search of cooler water. Bottom fishing in depths of 60-70 feet had been very consistent until last week. Look for a more reliable bite in depths of 90-120 feet as temperatures rise. And blackfin tuna have invaded. In the past, catching these was easy as long as you knew where the commercial shrimp fleet was. Now, with the lack of shrimp boats in our area, we have had to find new ways to target these fish.
Best bet: Structure fishing is the most consistent, just so you don't mind tangling with a few amberjack and barracuda. Anchor well on the uptide side of the wreck, and chum heavily with live pilchards and threadfin.
Tackle: A 3- to 4-foot section of fluorocarbon leader is preferred but not a must. Hooks should match the baits, not the target species. J-Hooks in the 2/0 to 4/0 range are perfect. If a circle hook is your preference, a little larger will do the job (5/0-6/0).
Conservation: Because tuna are pack hunters, you might get multiple hookups. Keep only what you plan to eat and release the rest. A 25-pound fish will yield about 12 to 14 pounds of meat, so a few fish will go a long way at the dinner table.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at fintasticinc.com or (727) 642-3411.