Offshore targets: Shallow-water grouper will be open in federal waters Friday. So we will target red grouper and scamp grouper in depths of 120-160 feet. Look for red grouper to feed on outside edges of hard-bottom areas. Bait of choice will be live pinfish and frozen sardines. Using larger pinfish and grunts will make it easier to keep red snapper off the bait, as a sardine is much easier for them to eat.
Other species: Yellow-tail snapper are still around on many types of bottom. The key to catching them is downsizing tackle and the right bait. Rigs that work well include the standard fish-finder and the knocker. Use the smallest lead possible because these snapper tend to rise into the water column when feeding. Snapper will eat sardines cut into small chunks, but live shrimp get their attention faster.
Cobia: In the early spring, cobia migrate through our area. Have a rod ready with a big bucktail jig or an eel impersonator. Look in bait pods near channel markers and wrecks or with large southern stingrays. Cobia mate for life, so make sure to have other bait in the water because the partner of a hooked fish will likely be under the boat.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at fintasticfishingcharters.com or (727) 642-3411.