The shallow water grouper fishery closure beyond the 20-fathom line will continue through March. With that said there is no reason to run offshore of that as the bite has been stellar in 100- to 120-foot depths lately. Concentrate in areas of hard bottom, not necessarily areas with large bait shows. Live baits have been responsible for our larger fish but we have also been catching many fish on artificial baits such as butterfly and bucktail jigs. Snapper fishing for mangrove and yellowtail is consistent a bit further offshore than the grouper. Recent trips to larger structure in 150- to 200-foot depths have produced great catches. Anchor uptide of the structure and chum. These fish have great eyesight and are very wary of anything out of the ordinary so tackling down is a must. Use 20- to 25-pound fluorocarbon leader and small hooks hidden inside the bait. Amberjack have been a bit tough to come by. Most of the usual wrecks and springs inside of 40 miles have legal-sized fish but not many. If these are your targets look to 160- to 220-foot depths for larger fish and more of them. Larger live baits have been working well but larger fish have come from high-speed vertical jig fishing. This will attract larger, aggressive fish.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.