Grouper watch: Several trips throughout the summer to the 90- to 110-foot depths that usually teem with red grouper proved disappointing. It was necessary to go back into the 60-foot range for the activity we were seeking. Labor Day weekend may prove to have been the turning point for deeper-water fishing. Saturday morning's lack of wind and tide offshore allowed us to drift fish. The slow drift produced red grouper of various sizes up to 15 pounds and resulted in the charting of several new spots.
Tip: Keep a marker handy and toss it overboard whenever a sizeable fish is hooked so you can easily return to the spot and explore it thoroughly.
Tactic: Flatlines deployed while bottom fishing again produced a number of species attracted to both the activity and the natural chum slick that results when grouper are reeled up from the depths and the pressure change forces out their stomach contents. Smaller reef fish also become easier prey for the apex predators as they swim back down to the bottom. Barracuda, several kingfish, small amberjack, Spanish mackerel and sharks were attracted to a frozen sardine deployed on the stinger rig.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at Luckytoo2@aol.com or (727) 397-8815.