Shallow-water grouper: Water temperatures are becoming a little more favorable for bottom fishing in shallow water. As the water cools, gag and red grouper will make their way into 30- to 60-foot depths off our coast. The main migration of gags will start in shallower waters off the Bayport and Tarpon Springs areas. As fall weather continues, these fish will push south toward our area and off Sarasota before pushing their way back offshore.
Red grouper: In the past few weeks, we have seen large numbers of red grouper move to 80- to 100-foot depths in the area. Areas that had been unproductive for the past five years have provided great results. The reds have averaged 10 to 12 pounds. Larger fish have been falling for larger live baits such as squirrelfish and grunts.
Gag grouper: Many gag grouper have been in 70- to 90-foot depths. Though it is a bit early for these fish to be in these areas, they will not be going anywhere soon. The reason: Huge schools of juvenile Spanish sardines are holding on most ledges and rockpiles in these areas. The tasty baitfish will keep these fish put and will help bring other fish to each spot.
More species: King mackerel have been making their annual push through our area in the past couple of weeks. Areas holding bait, such as the shipping channel and some local wrecks and reefs in 30- to 50-foot depths, are producing decent catches. Cigar minnows and live Spanish sardines will usually outproduce artificial baits when it comes to size. But larger fish will feed on larger live baits such as blue runners and mullet.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at fintasticinc.com or (727) 642-3411.