Bottom fishing: Fishing on the bottom over submerged structure can be very productive now. Shrimp is the universal bait of choice during winter, attracting a variety of species. Top targets may include sheepshead, mangrove snapper, flounder, sea bass, trigger fish, porgies and white grunts — all excellent table fare.
Challenge: Gag grouper are on many of the same rocky formations, presenting a challenge on light tackle. The season remains closed, so all must be released, but it's fun trying to lift these hard fighting fish from the depths. Recently two would-be keepers were landed on 10-pound test spinning gear and live shrimp intended for sheepshead in 16 feet of water.
Hook and line hog fish: It is rare to hook hog fish on traditional tackle. Their delicate fillets are generally reserved for spear fishermen. But recreational fishermen and charter captains report landing multiple hog fish. A few were trophy size, well over 10 pounds. All were caught with live shrimp fished on the bottom with a knocker rig.
Brent Gaskill runs Summer Vacation Charters out of the St. Petersburg area and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (727)510-1009.