What's hot: Gag grouper are off limits in state waters through March 31. This does not prohibit enjoying a battle and releasing them the same as inshore anglers must do with snook and overslot redfish. Mangrove snapper, triggerfish, porgies, black sea bass and white grunts are all available to provide excellent table fare. Many anglers look down at the smaller reef fish because they have been an incidental catch while grouper fishing with heavy tackle. Downsizing tackle to that used for trout and redfish (10- to 12-pound-test gear) will provide nonstop action. Rods must have a good backbone as the same conditions exist when grouper fishing (rocky outcroppings with sharp edges). Braided line should be used because of its abrasion resistance. Sinkers do not have to be any heavier than 2 ounces. The norm is to use 1/0 or 2/0 hooks because the fish are smaller and they have the ability to steal bait from larger hooks. Using two-hook snapper rigs with a sinker below the hooks results in multiple hookups.
Tip: Now is the time to get tackle serviced for kingfish season as the tackle shops are not as busy.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.