What's hot: We normally consider offshore fishing trips to be a lengthy proposition in the heat of summer. But many of our recent trips have been different. Most often in the summer, I wouldn't even consider a half-day trip for grouper. But why run any farther offshore with keeper-sized grouper less than 12 or 15 miles away.
Follow bait: The key to finding grouper has been bait schools. Watch the bottom machine for signs of baitfish. If there is any structure or hard bottom nearby, it should be a good day of fishing. A dark chevron near the school could mean grouper are ready to feed. Drop a jug to mark the spot and set up for a drift or drop anchor, which offers a more consistent bite. Frozen sardines and squid have recently won out over live pinfish. Maybe the grouper are tired of chasing the bait and want less of a challenge.
Variety: There have been a surprising number of decent-sized triggerfish in the same areas. They must be 14 inches to keep. Use a smaller hook and appropriate-sized bait, and try a lighter lead because triggerfish often hit on the fall. A good number of kingfish are still out there. Keep a flatline behind the boat while bottom fishing.
Larry Blue charters the Niki Joe from Marlins Dockside at John's Pass Marina on Treasure Island. Call (727) 871-1058 or visit CaptainLarryBlue.com.