What's hot: Water temperatures have dropped into the 50s, slowing much of the grouper eating habits in shallow depths (50 feet to shore). Even the Key West grunts, who normally won't eat in temperatures below 55, have felt the impact of the cold gulf waters.
Tip: The solution is to head farther west before dropping a line. At 18-20 miles from shore, the bottom machine began to reveal activity. Gags, red grouper, grunts and porgies are available from this point westward.
Tactics: Large schools of pinfish are huddled on many of the sand and shell bottoms at that depth, too, making it easy to load up with hand-sized baits. They have migrated west for the winter, and their appetites are ravenous. Your Sabiki rig won't reach the bottom before filling every hook. Giant clouds of these mature pins will follow the rig up to the surface, making it easier for repeated drops. And these frisky baits work great for anglers wanting to fish even deeper. In 100 feet and deeper, giant amberjack and grouper love to devour big pinfish.
Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 439-2628 or visit jawstoo.com.