What's hot: There's a steady grouper bite in just about all depths. In the past couple of weeks we've caught gag grouper in depths ranging from 32 feet to 475 feet. Live bait has been the key to success and should continue as long as the water temperatures stay above 70 degrees. Concentrate on ledges and roll-offs, and settle the boat over the fish that will usually show on the bottom side of the relief.
Red grouper are in somewhat of a strange pattern this year. There have been good numbers of legal-sized fish in depths of 30 to 45 feet for the past few months. Typically these fish will not venture to these depths until the height of the fall season, when water temperatures are in the mid to lower 60s. The strange thing is there are few legal reds from 50 to 80 feet of water, but once you get by that the bite is solid until you get to about 240 feet or so.
Tackle: Many anglers prefer the old 4/0-sized reel with heavy monofilament line as their setup for grouper. But times and tools change. Many anglers have made the transition to braided line because anglers "feel" the bite better. Braid also has virtually no stretch, unlike mono, which generally has about 10 percent stretch, an advantage in deep water. The major dilemma is the connection to the leader. Do not tie the braid directly to the swivel or hook, as the sliding of the lead will eventually wear through the braid and there are not many strong knots for this application. Anglers mainly rig up with a 20-foot section of mono connected to the end of the braid. The end of this mono is where the terminal tackle should be rigged. There are many knots that could be used for this connection. With a little testing you will find the right one for you.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.