What's hot: Beginning Tuesday both red and gag grouper will be closed in both state and federal waters. The regulations do not prevent anglers from catching and releasing them. So in a few days offshore anglers will join inshore guides, who, because of strict bag and seasonal restrictions, in practicing CPR (Catch, Photo and Release).
What else? There are options available for anglers venturing offshore when the weather permits. Amberjack will be near most offshore wrecks, freshwater springs and mitigation rock piles on the natural gas pipeline that are 30 to 50 miles from shore. The best baits for these hard fighters are large pinfish, pigfish and blue runners, if they can be found. The saying "the bigger the bait, the bigger the fish" usually holds true for amberjack. When large baits are hard to find, trolling large-lipped plugs in a figure 8 pattern over known amberjack locations will usually produce action. Both butterfly and large standard jigs employed while drifting or anchored will, at times, outproduce live baits.
Inshore: Break out the freshwater bass or inshore trout tackle and target white grunts, sea bass, mangrove snapper, triggerfish and the undersized, when in season, grouper. Using 10- to 12-pound class tackle rigged with a 2-ounce sinker, 20-pound test leader and a 2/0 circle hook will produce all the rod-bending, drag-pulling action one can handle. Any ledge, rock pile or artificial reef from 3 to 14 miles out will likely be holding sizable numbers of these species.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.