What's hot: With gag grouper season open, look for good numbers from inside Tampa Bay to 120 feet of water. If you don't know where to fish inside the bay, try trolling the edge of the shipping channel. Grouper hang out in the topside of the channel.
Tips: Troll large plugs behind a No. 3 planner, use large jigs on a downrigger or pull big-lipped lures that dive to 30 feet. The top of the channel is 26 feet deep. Using a zigzag pattern, work in 25-35 feet. Some of the best areas are inside the Sunshine Skyway bridge to the Port Manatee channel. The best tides are the end of the tidal flow, the slack and the start of the next tide. When the tide moves fast, grouper hold in rock ledges. When the tide starts to slow, they will move out and start feeding.
Tactics: When you catch a grouper, mark the spot with a recorder. The grouper was 30-40 feet behind the boat when you marked the strike. Return to the mark and use a bottom machine to look behind the mark. If you find a pile of rock or a stack of bait, mark the spot again and bottom fish the area with live pinfish. Use heavy tackle to keep grouper from cutting you off on the rocks.
Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 347-1389.