Bottom fishing for grouper in shallow water this time of year is typically on fire. This year, however, due to the lack of major cold fronts, the main migration of gag grouper is well behind. The main body of these fish is stuck about 70-90 miles north of the bay area and should stay put until we get at least one or two major fronts. Red grouper fishing is best in 140- to 200-foot depths. Along with the gags they are waiting for cooler water to give them the push they need in order to move inshore. Look for an explosion of fish to hit the shallows within a month or so. Live baits such as pinfish, squirrelfish and grunts are still outproducing dead baits. Artificial presentations are a great bet for the next few months as these fish become very aggressive looking to stock up for the cold weather. Baits such as 3- to 4-ounce bucktails and 5- to 6-ounce butterfly jigs get the best action. With hogfish, this very popular wrasse is very active right now. Spawning season is in full swing and they're on just about every rock and ledge between 30 and 70 feet. The current bag limit is five fish with a size limit of 12 inches, but soon the size limit will be 14 inches.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.