Red grouper season in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico re-opens Friday. Because of the unseasonably warm conditions, there is little reason to go out to federal waters, which are beyond 9 miles. Many anglers have found exceptional fishing opportunities from 5 to 7 miles offshore. The bait and fish are finding comfortable conditions in the nearshore areas, and anglers are cashing in. In addition to the grouper, many other fish are providing lots of action. A local staple is the white grunt, but black sea bass can become aggressive when tasty morsels of squid are offered. Mangrove snapper have been fairly active around the full moon. Closer to shore, there has been an abundance of Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, various sharks and an occasional cobia. To find mackerel, look for bait schools and diving birds near them. Another fish getting considerable attention is the tripletail. This fish hovers near floating debris and particularly likes to hide below crab trap buoys. They are often passed by because they look like a clump of grass attached to the trap line. Many fishermen will keep a dedicated rod ready should they happen to spot one. A free-lined live shrimp is a good bait.
Larry Blue charters the Niki Joe from Madeira Beach Marina. Call (727) 871-1058 or visit captainlarryblue.com.