What's hot: Bottom fishing has been unusually consistent for this time of year. Normally it's necessary to venture offshore to at least 90 feet of water and target red grouper, white grunts and yellowtail snapper. This year a significant thermocline near the bottom, starting in mid 40-foot depths, has provided a zone of comfort for baitfish and their attendant gag grouper, grunts and mangrove snapper. Red grouper are in the same depths; it is necessary to wade through many undersized fish to find keepers. It pays to carry a full arsenal of bait including squid, Spanish sardines and pinfish; use a sabiki rig to catch bait on site. Start with squid and cut sardines and switch to live bait and cut grunts when the bite slows.
Tip: We always deploy a stinger rigged flatline baited with a live or frozen Spanish sardine when bottom fishing. This summer we have caught numerous large kingfish and Spanish mackerel, barracuda, bonita, several species of shark, gag and red grouper, mangrove snapper and a red snapper in the 10- to 12-pound range. Put out two flatlines, one with a live bait and one with a frozen bait.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.