This is the time to start checking shallow-water rock piles along the Nature Coast. With cool water temperatures gag grouper can be found on most structures from 5 feet on out. Many of these shallow spots can be detected by looking for dark spots on the bottom with white, sandy surroundings. You can anchor up-tide and fish back to the structure without running the boat over the fish. In 20 feet or less, motor noise will normally run them off the structure.
Where to start: Good charts showing contour changes or areas noted as rocky will get you in the area. Many times you will see numerous stone crab traps in these areas. If the traps are in a line, this may indicate a nearby ledge just inshore or offshore of the trap line. Pay close attention to these trap lines as they are usually close to productive structure.
Best baits: I never head offshore without live pinfish, but there are times when cut bait can be effective. Frozen sardines, cut lady fish and mullet produce a lot of scent and help stimulate the bite, as well as lure fish from the rocks.
Capt. Troy P. Sapp with Fins and Tails Guide Service can be reached at (813) 920-6928.