A few weeks ago I warned how weather patterns could affect fishing in the eastern Gulf. Well, the fish reacted as expected when temperatures fell drastically. Most red grouper have moved offshore to at least 90-foot depths to get away from cold water. Those fish will come back inshore if it warms up. Typically in winter, mangrove snapper disappear from the area; but this year they are thick on just about every ledge and rock pile in depths of 60-100 feet. On a recent trip we caught at least 100 of them, from 1-7 pounds. Concentrate on east- and west-running breaks. Amberjack also have been affected by recent heavy winds and huge seas. Look for good quality fish in 130-180 feet of water in areas with high relief such as wrecks, springs and ledges over 6 feet tall. Live bait has worked well. For the technical angler, vertical jigs and large bucktails are also producing with larger, more aggressive fish. On our last amberjack trip we caught nice fish in the 35- to 45-pound range on jigs and not a single fish on live bait.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.