On Jan. 1 amberjack opened here in the gulf with a 30-inch minimum size limit, but as of Monday the size limit increased to 34 inches and the bag limit will remain at one fish per person. Look for them on high-relief structures such as wrecks, big ledges and springs in depths of at least 90 feet of water. Although live baits are typically the stand-by approach to catching these fish, over the years many anglers have switched over to the artificial presentations. Large buck-tails, vertical jigs, and large top water plugs can produce ferocious bites from these overly aggressive amberjack. In another opening, red grouper fishing has been very good in depths as shallow as 30 feet of water. These fish have been for foraging in flat hard-bottom areas for months now but frontal boundaries will have these fish stacking up on larger pieces of bottom until the winds and waves subside. The key is finding the fish. Being able to determine between a school of vermillion snapper and a pile of hungry red grouper on your particular bottom machine is usually the difference between coming home with a couple of fish or coming home with a full fish box. Since location is key, bait preference, at least for the next couple of months, will rarely make a difference. Also, triggerfish returned on Jan. 1. They are usually a by-catch when fishing for hogfish in the bay area. Generally during winter these strange critters make their way into the 40- to 60-foot depths in our area. Very aggressive in nature, they will usually track your bait as it's falling to the bottom and pounce on it as soon as it stops. The TAC (total allowable catch) on these fish is quite small so check regulations often as they can close with very short notice.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.