What's hot: Red snapper have been the first target on trips offshore this past week, and it could not get much easier. These fish are stacked as high as 100 feet off the bottom.
Tactics: Red snapper have ferocious appetites and usually devour live and frozen bait. The more dominant snapper will move up the water column. For those, use a knocker rig. It consists of a smaller egg lead, usually about a quarter- to half-ounce, placed on the main line right above the hook. The smaller lead will present the bait so it looks like a stunned baitfish sinking to the bottom. A more traditional method is a fish-finder rig. It has a sliding lead on the main line, a swivel connected to a length of leader and finished with a hook. One trick is to drop the rig to the bottom baited with a sardine then reel up about 20-30 feet of line (depending on depth) and wait for the hit.
Bonus fish: While bottom fishing at anchor, make sure to have a flat-lined bait swimming behind the boat. We have seen schools of mahi in 110 feet and deeper. Having a surface bait out will almost always yield some action and, in some cases, a fish of a lifetime such as a sailfish or big wahoo.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at fintasticinc.com or (727) 642-3411.