What's hot: Finding grouper in the shallow waters off our coast has been as easy as finding a piece of hard bottom or a ledge, anchoring over it and dropping a bait to the bottom. I have been fishing offshore here for a long time, and I have never seen grouper fishing this easy. We have been concentrating our efforts in depths of 60 to 90 feet.
Amberjack watch: Amberjack reopens Friday after an emergency closure in October. We need to be responsible with these fish next year; they are nearing the end of their 10-year rebuilding plan. Because their quota was exceeded this year, the quota will be that much lower in 2010. So keep only what you need and release the rest. Look for giant schools over wrecks and springs in 80 feet or more.
Deep water: Deep-water haunts are full of new fish. This is a great time of year to target monster gag groupers. Last week, fishing in 130 feet, we were rewarded with numerous fish in the 20-pound range and a carborita grouper pushing almost 50 pounds. If weather allows, fish some of the summertime areas in 150 to 240 feet, like the Elbow, or around the 30 and 40 fathom ridges. These larger fish are more likely to fall for big bait. Large tinker mackerel and big squirrel fish are great.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at fintasticinc.com or (727) 642-3411.