We are nearing the end of December and only one solid cold front has made its way to us, leaving water temperatures in the low 70s. This warmer water will keep the main body of gag grouper well to the north, and their season closes at the end of the month, likely before the best bite shows up here. Some fish have made their way into 60- to 120-foot depths. Concentrate on ledges and make sure you secure a livewell of the largest pinfish, grunts and squirrelfish you can find. Mangrove snapper fishing continues to be as good as ever in 70-110 feet. On a recent trip, we anchored over a small ledge in 110 feet, and every bait that hit bottom was devoured by 4- to 6-pound mangos. We caught a few on sardines, but live baits didn't stand a chance. As the water cools, look for this epic snapper fishing to slow down a bit as these fish make their way back offshore.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.