Game plan: On Saturday, the wind and gulf conditions were such that I decided to take my friends — Rob Klingel Sr., Lou "Skip" Mirra, Mitch Maxwell and Jack Voshardt — fishing nearer the beach to keep from getting too beat up. In an area between the Madeira Beach and Treasure Island reefs we looked for signs of activity on the bottom. Using 50-pound grouper rods, we dropped rigs with a sardine-and-squid combination to the bottom in 28 feet of water. In less than 15 minutes we had five 26- to 28-inch gag grouper in the cooler.
Not wanting to clean out this particular spot, we relocated the boat about 300 yards from the first stop. In less than 30 minutes we had our legal limit of eight keeper gag grouper in just two stops. To fill the next three hours, we tried trolling and were rewarded with some Spanish mackerel.
Baiting strategy: Windy conditions mean the seas will be dirtied from sand being tossed up into the water column. Because of this, grouper have a hard time seeing live bait. That's why the sardine-and-squid combos were taken with vigor, while the pinfish didn't even get a hit. The odor of squid helps the grouper find the bait.
Larry Blue charters the Niki Joe from Madeira Beach Marina. Call (727) 871-1058 or visit captainlarryblue.com.