Hurricane Ike did not directly affect the land on the west coast of Florida, but it had a definite effect on the waters of the gulf. High winds and rough seas kept everyone in port while the storm passed well offshore, and large swells made conditions uncomfortable even after the winds subsided.
What's hot: Bottom-fishing for red and gag grouper is usually very good after a major storm travels through the gulf because they did not have the ability to feed. Tactics different from a few weeks ago must be employed. There will be a layer of silt suspended in the water column near the bottom, and grouper and snapper will be relying on smell rather than sight to locate food. Anchoring over a hard bottom and using frozen squid and sardines along with some patience as opposed to drifting will be most effective for the red grouper. Patience is required because it might take the fish awhile to find the bait. Deploying a frozen block of chum in a cage near the bottom will draw grouper to your baits from quite a distance. Gag grouper tend to seek shelter from the bottom surge in large ledges, wrecks and artificial reefs. Starting with the same frozen baits and dropping a large pinfish once activity has begun will result in some larger fish.
Mackerel activity will resume on the artificial reefs once the baitfish, which have been scattered, return. By this weekend, trolling activity should be red hot.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.