Red grouper are continuing their trek to the bait-rich inshore waters. Look for fish in the 12- to 18-pound range in depths of 110-180 feet later this month. Bait preference varies depending on the angler, but normal areas where red grouper can be found will also hold huge numbers of vermillion snapper, which are notorious for cleaning sardines off the hook quickly. When fishing over one of these spots, live baits will outproduce frozen as snapper will leave them alone. Tuna time is here and getting better each week as more bait arrives to the offshore waters. The best bet for blackfin tuna is depths of 70-120 feet. A quick cast net session and a full well of pilchards give you the best chance. While at anchor over your favorite snapper or grouper spot, unload free-swimming chummers and watch for any bursts on the surface or "black backs" shooting under the boat. Rigs are simple, with lighter 20- to 30-pound leaders and a 5/0-7/0 circle hook. Kingfish are thick in nearly all depths from 30 feet out. The shipping channel is holding tons of bait around most of the markers that can be easily caught on No. 8 sabiki rigs. After the well is full, a spread of these baits on stinger rigs should be sent off the stern and "slow-trolled" at 1-2 knots.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.