What's hot: Offshore, we have concentrated on areas of hard bottom in depths of 120 feet or more for red grouper. Check the edges where the coral bottom and sandy bottom meet. This is where vermillion snapper congregate and, in turn, the grouper. Live baits on a standard fish-finder rig work well.
Other options: Mangrove snapper fishing is typically slow at this time of year. But because it has been so warm, these feisty fish continue to feed aggressively. Rigging depends on where the fish are staged in the water column. Because these fish have keen eyesight, lighter leaders and smaller hooks get more attention. If after chumming the fish come off the bottom enough for us to see them, we rig a 20-pound fluorocarbon leader, a 4/0 circle hook and nothing else. If the fish are staging the typical 10 to 30 feet off of the bottom, then a 1/8-ounce jig head will take the place of the circle hook. Baits can be anything from live shrimp to a live whitebait. Look for the best bite at depths of 90 feet or more.
Wrecks and springs: Amberjack have been cooperative. Check large structures in depths of 90 feet or more. We've been catching fish in the 30- to 40-pound class by free-lining live baits.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.