What's hot: Red snapper has 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 in some spots.
Tactics: Red snapper have ferocious appetites and usually devour any live or frozen bait. During a feed, the dominant ones will move up the water column. To target these fish, use a knocker rig. This consists of a smaller egg lead, about a quarter-ounce or half-ounce, placed on the main line right above the hook. The smaller lead makes bait look like a stunned baitfish sinking to the bottom and, therefore, an easy target. A more traditional tactic is a fish-finder rig. This has a sliding lead on the main line, a swivel connected to a length of leader and a hook. One effective trick is dropping this rig to the bottom baited with a sardine then reeling up about 20-30 feet of line (depending on depth).
Grouper: With gag grouper closed, we are targeting big red grouper in 120-180 feet. These fish will eat most offerings, including large Spanish sardines, pinfish and other live baits. Another great way to catch them is using a 3- to 4-ounce buck-tail jig. This past week, grouper caught with artificial baits were larger than ones taken with live or frozen baits.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.