What's hot: With winter weather often unpredictable and offshore trips sometimes difficult to plan, the relatively protected edges of the ships channel in the bay can offer a variety of opportunities. Trolling the channel's edge with long-lipped plugs can be a productive grouper technique. Anchoring along the rocky edge can often result in catching a variety of species. Tuesday we had nonstop action working a couple spots between Egmont Key and the Sunshine Skyway bridge. Targeting the last of the outgoing tide, along with a handful of grouper up to 14 pounds, we had bites on nearly every drop. Juvenile grouper, mangrove snapper and Key West grunts kept the light rods bent until the tide stopped.
Bait selections: Bait choices will often dictate the action. Our largest grouper ate our largest baits and we offered a variety. Full-grown greenbacks, whitebait and pinfish were productive. Mangoes preferred the 3-inch whitebait we offered on 20-pound tackle and a 2-foot length of 30-pound leader. To catch all the Key West grunts you care to, a piece of squid and/or cut bait will do the trick.
Tips: Planning trips around the slower current of tide changes may be instrumental, particularly during the new and full moon phases. I've done best when a 2-ounce lead is all that's necessary for the light tackle and 3 ounces for the heavier tackle and bigger baits.
Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 321-2142.