As nice as last weekend's weather was, we probably won't be as lucky this time as a series of cold fronts looks to be bearing down. Establishing consistent fishing patterns is difficult this time of year. But if the water isn't too dirty after a big front, offshore bottom fishing can be more reliable than searching for keeper trout or schools of redfish. Beautiful weather last weekend made for calm seas and excellent light-tackle bottom fishing for hogfish, white grunts, blue porgies and the occasional keeper red grouper. With trout fishing slow in the northern part of the county, light-tackle bottom fishing not only helps put tasty fish in the cooler but it's a blast on the same tackle used for trout and redfish. Most anglers bottom fishing for grunts and porgies would only think to bring squid for bait, but if you're searching for hogfish, you need shrimp or fiddler crabs. Shrimp are easier to get in the bait shops, or you can catch your own fiddler crabs. Bring plenty of bait as the action is usually constant once a productive area is located. Targeting ledges in 30-50 feet of water will put you in the right area. Use medium-action rods spooled with 15-pound braid, 25-pound fluorocarbon leader and a knocker rig consisting of a 11/2-ounce egg sinker and a 2/0 or 3/0 hook. Thread the shrimp onto the hook tail first, bringing the point out through the abdomen. Once a hogfish is caught, stay busy since hogfish seem to get progressively chummed-up the more shrimp that are dropped down.
Tyson Wallerstein runs Inshore Fishing Charters in the Clearwater/St. Petersburg area and can be reached at (727) 692-5868 and via email at flatsmonster.com.