What's hot: Red grouper in depths of 90 to 220 feet have been very good. The past few trips we have only had to make a few stops to get enough tasty grouper. These guys have not been picky with what they are eating, though the larger fish have been coming off live baits. Often offshore anglers mistake the large shows on their bottom machines as small baitfish, when most of the show is a large school of small vermillion snapper that take up residence on small chunks of hard bottom. Large red grouper will inhabit the same spots, since meals are close by.
Best bet: Red snapper limit catches have been taken with ease, on live, frozen and artificial baits. The larger fish will be higher in the water column. Look in depths of 120 feet or more to find the best action.
Venting: Since the red snapper season is so short, many anglers will cull their catch and just try to catch the larger fish. A venting tool helps ensure the survival of unwanted fish and will give them the best chance at getting back to the bottom. The needle should be placed at a 45 degree angle (toward the head of the fish), just behind where the pectoral fin lays against its side. Insert the needle about an inch or until you hear gasses escaping from the bladder.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.