Looks like we are in for a warming spell for the next few days, with temps in the 70s. This is exactly what we need to get things right in the gulf. Surface temps along the shoreline have been in the mid 50s, entirely too cold for this area. Further west, water stays a few degrees higher, so fish are more active. Our plan lately has been to travel at least 15 miles out. Hog snapper are at these depths and will grab a fresh shrimp or cut chunk of crab. They cruise along the bottom in the same areas as grouper and other reef fish. Go to any spot where you've landed grouper in the past. Live coral and rocks sponges and many other bottom growths help anglers find a few of these tasty fish. Also, we have seen mangrove snapper on some rockpiles. They congregate on grouper spots that have high relief (big ledges) and undercuts. Try to find specific rocks that have both species. Mixed in is an occasional scamp grouper. Last week a true black 9-pound grouper was reeled in. These two species of grouper are the only types we are allowed to keep inside 120 feet of water. Red grouper season is closed until April. Gags should open in June with the new rules coming into effect.
Dave Mistretta captains Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 439-2628 or visit jawstoo.com.