Saturday, March 24, 2018

Captain's Corner: Red grouper fishing will stay hot, no matter the weather

Red grouper fishing will continue to be hot for the next month even if the weather is not. Large numbers of fish in the 8- to 12-pound class have been in depths of 50-120 feet for some time. Grouper, especially red grouper, can tolerate a wide range of water temperatures and should stay in these depths as long as temperatures don't dip into the 50s. If that happens, look for grouper to push a bit farther offshore to stay in their preferred zone. There is no need for live bait while grouper fishing for the next few months. Lower temperatures make the fish lazy, and they will not want to work hard for their next meal. Securing a quality assortment of frozen baits such as sardines, Boston mackerel and squid is key. The freshest baits make the best presentation and make a huge difference in getting a bite going. Some anglers soak these baits the night before an offshore trip in Menhaden oil, which will mimic the smell of a typical feeding frenzy on the bottom over your spot. Amberjack have invaded many offshore wrecks and springs in depths of 70-200 feet. Though their aggressive nature makes them attack just about any artificial presentation, live baits are hard to beat for quantity. On a typical trip, a large live well full of hundreds of baits will be secured on the way offshore. Upon arrival we deploy dozens of "live chummers" to get the fish on the feed. Once the fish are feeding near the surface, we switch to vertical jigs, subsurface swimming baits and surface lures to target the most aggressive — and many times the largest — fish on the spot. Remember that amberjack now must be 34 inches to be kept, and because they are so large, a limit is not always required to bring home a lot of meat for the table. This time of year requires a good bit of planning for a trip offshore. We are always aware of the timing of the next cold front and make sure not to be out when one comes through because of strong winds. Many sites online offer great weather forecasts, along with real-time data that can be onboard through XM weather or VHF radio.

Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and


Captainís Corner: Erratic weather making offshore fishing unpredictable

Continued heavy winds have kept offshore fisheries from settling in to predictable patterns. When things have calmed, nearshore baitfish have bunched up and kingfish and Spanish mackerel settled in around them. Unfortunately, each cold front has chur...
Published: 03/23/18

Captainís Corner: Snook bite is best now in afternoon

So what happened to our spring weather in February? The weather has the fish moving back and forth between their winter and summer spots, and with April just a few weeks away, the air temperature is warming up and should be in the upper 70s and low 8...
Published: 03/21/18
Updated: 03/22/18

Captainís Corner: Windy conditions limit fishing options

The weather and water temperature roller coaster continues. Finding consistent action has been difficult with windy conditions keeping us from fishing many open parts of the bay or out into the gulf. Hiding in secluded backwater areas or on leeward s...
Published: 03/20/18
Updated: 03/21/18

Captainís Corner: Grouper moving in as water temperatures rise

Red grouper have made their move inshore this past week as waters closer to shore have warmed up a bit. Concentrate your efforts on hard bottom areas in depths of 100-120 feet for the rest of the month, and remember that all shallow water grouper are...
Published: 03/18/18
Updated: 03/20/18

Captainís Corner: Cold causes spiny lobsters to go into hiding

The cold front that ended Wednesday drove the offshore bottom temperatures back down into the low 60s. On dives Friday, my dive computer read 62 degrees at the bottom in 54 feet of water. On the next dive it read 60 in 62 feet. We were looking for ho...
Published: 03/18/18

Captainís Corner: Snook are the hot bite

Surface water temperatures have dipped into the low 60s, but the fish donít seem to mind. The longer days get the temperature up and helps keep it from getting into the danger zone at night. Snook have been the hot bite this past week and, believe it...
Published: 03/16/18
Updated: 03/17/18

It has been a crazy month regarding all the drastic weather changes. We experienced a record-breaking warming trend in February, followed by an endless amount of cold weather this month. The arrival times for many spring migrations of fish has been i...
Published: 03/16/18

Captainís Corner: Big trout moving out of the shallows

February seemed like March with record-breaking heat, but now March seems like February with below-average temperatures. This is a good thing. Spring fishing has started way too early in the past few years. The cold-water temperature we have now will...
Published: 03/14/18
Updated: 03/15/18

Captainís Corner: Temperature changes affect fly fishing

Having a fantastic river trip one day where we caught a lot of snook in shallow water on a fly and going back to the same location three days later and not finding any cooperative fish can be very puzzling. What happened? Recent warm weather was repl...
Published: 03/11/18
Updated: 03/14/18

Captainís Corner: Warming trend increasing activity over grass flats

Water temperatures have finally started to climb into the low 70s on the flats. The temperatures have been fluctuating with the past few cold fronts moving through. Large schools of reds should start showing up on the flats in the Pinellas Point area...
Published: 03/11/18
Updated: 03/13/18