What's hot: Offshore gag grouper fishing is as good as it can get. The fish that are traditionally targeted in depths of 20-30 feet have moved offshore to 50-60 feet because of unusually cold weather, joining the fish that have made the annual trek from the deep waters of the gulf. Cold water conditions have put a crimp in gathering live bait such as pinfish, pigfish and white baits, but that does not seem to matter. Frozen sardines, squid and pieces of jack mackerel have been producing banner catches.
Tactics: The larger ledges and artificial reefs, being high-profile structures, are more likely to hold numbers of fish because they provide protection to baitfish and their predators. The high seas and turbulent conditions caused by strong winds accompanying cold fronts create this movement of the fish. If we get a period of calm seas, these fish will move to smaller ledges near the high-profile structure where competition for the available forage is not as intense.
Tip: Pay attention to which way smaller fish swim when released. They will always swim toward the best available structure. The same holds true when a keeper is hooked. If all the fish are swimming in the same direction, it is worthwhile to cast a baited hook that way. Usually there is a bigger undercut or pile of rocks in that direction that tend to hold the majority of larger fish.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.