What's hot: Shallow-water grouper fishing is on fire. Most of the ledges and hard bottoms in 20 to 40 feet are holding good numbers. On most stops, we drift the spot to see if it's holding fish. We anchor if it produces gag grouper during the drift. The most important thing is to be over the ledge or area where your recorder shows a spike of fish. Deploy frozen sardines for the first bait. They put smell in the water, which attracts larger grouper. After 30 minutes, fish the spot with live pinfish. To keep the grouper from getting into the rocks, shorten the leaders to 3 feet and lock down the drags. Grouper in shallow water strike bait faster than they do in deep water. Be ready to start reeling as soon as you feel the strike. If the grouper do get you into the rocks, give them some slack and try to lift them out after a few minutes. One of the best tricks is not to catch all the grouper you find on one spot. Migrating grouper will not stop if they don't see grouper hanging in the area.
Tips: Don't undertackle. Start with 50-pound line and 80-pound leaders. If the spot you're fishing has big grouper and you lose one, it can shut down the bite. Keep moving from one ledge to the next until you find one that's holding grouper.
Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached (727) 347-1389.