Winter grouper: Grouper fishing in gulf federal waters — those beginning 9 miles from shore and beyond — has become more work because gags are off-limits per fisheries service regulations. Red grouper, which enter a closed season in both state and federal waters on Feb. 1, have been difficult to entice, though that is quite common during frigid winters. However, plenty of blue point porgies, triggerfish and grunts have been available, along with an occasional mangrove snapper. If you keep enough of these smaller reef fish, you can muster up enough small fillets for a fish fry.
Letting them go: On Jan. 1, NOAA Fisheries Service put into effect temporary regulations that prohibit recreational harvest of gag grouper in Gulf of Mexico federal waters because, the agency says, stock assessments show the species is overfished. So the most frustrating part of our recent fishing trips has been the overabundance of gag grouper on all of our spots. We have been trying to avoid gags, to no avail. Large concentrations have been prevalent in all depths. The repeated appearance of them at so many locations tells me their stocks are a lot more abundant than some suspect.
Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 439-2628 or see www.jawstoo.com.