What's hot: Fall has always been the best time of year for shallow-water grouper fishing. As the water cools, increased numbers of gags move in from offshore to capitalize on the abundant food. In October it's common to find good-sized gags within 2 miles of shore in water as shallow as 10 feet. Just about anyone with a boat has a good chance of catching a grouper dinner before the season closes at the end of the month. This week we landed our boat limit in one or two stops within sight of shore.
Tackle adjustments: Gag fishing in such shallow depths requires a different approach than traditional bottom fishing. When the water is less than 20 feet and clear, grouper can be skittish. Parking the boat directly over the fish will scare many away. Instead, anchor the boat up current from the rocks and cast back toward them. This also affords anglers a better chance of keeping hooked fish from getting them snagged.
We use heavy spinning reels spooled with 40-pound-test monofilament line. Braided line, while stronger, has proved to reduce the number of strikes due its high visibility. Sinkers should be a half ounce to 2 ounces. Heavier sinkers merely cause more snags. In many cases we do not use a sinker at all, just a section of 80-pound leader, an 8/0 circle hook and free-lined pinfish.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at lighttacklecharters.com or at (727) 944-3474.