Red snapper continue to be our main focus offshore. We have been finding very hungry fish in just about all depths, from 110 to 240 feet. Look for best results fishing over small structure such as roll-offs and breaks in these depths. Sardines have been the bait of choice — they are soft and the snapper tend to bite right through them, increasing hookup ratios dramatically. As more bites happen, the column under the boat fills with small bits of sardines that bring more fish into your drop zone. Since these fish do not tend to "run for the rock," they can be caught on a wide variety of gear. Conventional reels with 50- to 80-pound line are the norm, but larger spinning gear can be a blast. Our typical terminal rig consists of 5- to 6-ounce slip leads, and 5- to 7-foot leaders connected to a 7/0-9/0 circle hook. Red grouper have finally made their way into the 100- to 140-foot depths and are more than willing to take just about any offering put in front of them. Look for the best numbers to be found under large schools of vermillion snapper. Anchoring right on the edge of the hardest bottom will yield best results. Larger live baits such as pinfish and grass grunts will usually outproduce frozen baits in these areas due to the fact that the vermillion will tear apart a sardine before it even hits the bottom. Look for these fish to keep pushing east.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.