What's hot: Gag grouper fishing is now open in state waters. Some of the best action is inside Tampa Bay. Most of the grouper can be found on the drop-off of the shipping channel. Target areas 25 to 31 feet deep. These areas are at the top of the channel. Using a bottom recorder, look for areas that have a hard rock reading. You can also locate good bottom spots by trolling the top area of the channel. Most trolling rigs consist of large plugs behind a No. 3 planer or a large jig run off a downrigger. Zig-zag over the top of the channel to locate productive grouper spots. When you catch a grouper while trolling, mark the spot and return to that area and bottom fish. The best bottom baits are live pinfish and threadfins. If you tail-hook the baits, they won't tangle in the current. Tighten the drag. A drag that's not tight will give the grouper a shot at cutting you off on the rocks.
Tackle: Rods should be rigged with 50-pound line and a 60-pound leader. Use a 5 to 7/0 hook and enough weight to keep the bait over the rocks. With the drags set tight, be ready to muscle the fish as soon as it strikes. Fishing for grouper in water this shallow doesn't allow time to pause.
Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 347-1389.