The scene. Water temperatures have dropped because of rain and stout winds. With subtle changes in the weather patterns and a large freshwater influx into Tampa Bay, fishing has been tricky.
What's hot. Inshore gag grouper have been fairly cooperative, and the cooler water temperatures should keep them active for a while. The Port Manatee channel all the way to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge has had good numbers of these fish. The edges of the channel that are cut into limestone are the best spots.
Tip. Use deep-diving lures to find fish. Trolling can be effective, but it's also expensive. There are many snags and those lures are not cheap. After a hookup on a plug, circle back and bottom drop to see if any more fish are there. Grouper tend to gather, and several can be pulled from the same spot with the right technique.
Heavy spinning gear or conventional large reels will at least give you a chance. These structure dwellers know every nook and cranny of their surroundings. Plain and simple, you will get broken off while fishing for grouper.
Coming. The heavy rain should reactivate the flats. Areas such as the "Kitchen" or the Manatee and Alafia River, offer heat relief for snook and reds. These places have a lot of turns and bends mixed with the occasional oyster bar. Therefore extra caution should be used when navigating these waters the first few times.
Dave Walker charters out of Tampa and can be reached at (813) 319-6531.