Typical January water temperatures are a bit behind this year. This means the normal migration pattern of grouper will be a bit unpredictable. Normally, red grouper are in nearly all depths this time of year, but now the best bet is between 100- and 200-foot depths. We've been targeting smaller roll-offs and hard edges in these depths with great success. Although these fish take just about any offering, we've been presenting live bait over frozen in order to limit catching the ever-growing population of red snapper also populating the same depths. Hogfish have become a popular target for many offshore anglers. Look to ledges and rock piles in 30- to 60-foot depths for the next few months. Baits such as shrimp, crabs and sand fleas are among the top offerings. Since these fish are protogynous hermaphrodite, they start as female and change to male at different stages of their life cycle. At a recent meeting hosted by the FWC it was suggested to increase the size limit. The minimum size is 12 inches with 14 inches on the near horizon. As long as water temperatures stay warmer than normal, we will see a later-than-normal kingfish run. Typical areas such as the end of the shipping channel, the Anchorage and wrecks in 50- to 90-foot depths will continue to hold good numbers.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.