Inshore: The most productive fishing spots in lower Tampa Bay will be where the water is warmest. Deep holes close to the flats and the residential canals are good places to target. The holes will have warm water close to the bottom. Work a jig close to the bottom, using a slow retrieve. The fish will be lethargic. When fishing residential canals, pick one that has slow water flow. This keeps the water warmer than the surrounding areas.
Grouper: When the water temperature hits 65 degrees, you can find large grouper in water 12 feet or less. Slow-troll areas where the 12-foot contour drops into 15 feet or deeper. The best rigs are a large paddletail jig or a Bubba jig that weighs 2-to-4 ounces. Drag the jigs at a slow speed using a 50-pound outfit and a 40-pound leader. When you land a grouper, mark the spot and retroll the area.
Tip: Have a supply of large pinfish and a free-lined rod in the 50-pound class. This allows you to drift across the areas where you caught grouper while trolling.
Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 347-1389.