With falling water temperatures and acres of bait fish heading into nearshore waters off the coast, expect the fall migration of gag grouper to be in full swing with the next two or three cold fronts that make their way into the central Gulf of Mexico. While there are scattered fish here and there in depths as shallow as 40 feet, the more consistent bite can still be found in depths greater than 100 feet. On a recent trip offshore we started on a few ledges with great fish shows in depths of 60-70 feet. The catch was less than impressive. A move to a few more breaks in the 90- to 100-foot range produced a little better bite, but it still was less than expected. Finally we reached a small break in 120 feet where we landed a half-dozen gags in the 10- to 15-pound range and a nice catch of mangrove snapper in the 4- to 6-pound range. Running and gunning is one of the best ways to locate fish while offshore. In most cases bottom species such as snapper and grouper will let you know within a few minutes if they are there or not, so make sure not to waste too much time at any one location. The fall migration of cobia have made their way into the area about a month early. Usually November is the best time to target these fish. Targeting cobia can be done by either sight-casting or fishing live baits on the bottom. In most cases these curious fish will just swim right up to the back of an anchored boat and can be caught easily with a medium to heavy spinning rod and a live pinfish. But in some cases such as last week, while fishing a wreck in 150 feet of water, these fish were successfully targeted while fishing live baits right on the bottom on the uptide side of the structure.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.