Migration: Fall has arrived, and with it comes a wide variety of migratory fish. Perhaps the most important are bait fish. Millions of minnows move through the west-central region following moderate water temperatures. Many game fish will follow the bait. Kingfish and mackerel garner much of the spotlight, but gag grouper move as well.
Shallow-water grouper fishing: As water temperatures drop out of the 80s, gag grouper gather along shallow rocks and ledges from just a mile offshore out to depths of 50 feet. Some fish move in from offshore to feed. Others are maturing young fish that have spent the past year growing in bays, estuaries and grass flats. Regardless of where they come from, the fishing action can be outstanding.
Change tactics: When grouper are in shallow water, it helps to modify protocol. Dropping a big sinker over a rock pile in 15 feet of water is not that effective. Anchor upcurrent from a spot and use a mix of block chum and crippled live sardines. This will often bring the grouper to the surface, where you can sight cast to them with spinning tackle. No weight is needed in many cases, and even fly tackle can work.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 944-3474.