What's hot: The gag grouper season ended on a high note with great weather and great fishing in the 30- to 50-foot depths. Catch, photo and release will have to be practiced until July 1 when the season opens again. There are still several species to target for the fish box and ultimately for the table, including red grouper, triggerfish, mangrove snapper and white grunts. We caught keeper red grouper while targeting gags in water as shallow as 30 feet, but to consistently catch keepers it will be necessary to venture out to the 70- to 90-foot depths and fish the swiss-cheese hard-bottom areas.
Tackle: Mangrove snapper and triggerfish are usually a bonus bycatch when targeting grouper because of the heavier tackle used. Switching to 15- or 20-pound class spinning outfits, 1/0 or 2/0 circle hooks, 2-ounce sinkers and small pinfish or whitebait will increase the chances of taking some of these bait-stealers home. White grunts are the most prolific benthic fish in our area and make delicious table fare, breaking out the same tackle that is used for trout and redfish inshore will provide drag-pulling action and fish for the table.
Tips: Good catches of Spanish mackerel on the artificial reefs have remained consistent for anglers trolling small gold or silver spoons over the higher profile structures. We caught kingfish by deploying a live or dead sardine on a flatline while bottom fishing.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.