Great bottom fishing: Grouper fishing remains steady in depths of 60 feet. Live and dead baits are working. We have had our best success with live pinfish and grunts. In most cases, the smaller fish start biting almost immediately after we anchor. Sometimes it takes a few minutes before the big groupers pay attention to the baited hooks. The larger fish will cautiously watch as the younger, naive fish attack baits.
Hot tip: Changing things around often triggers a bite from the big ones. We periodically live-bait chum with pinfish, even in deeper water. This baitfish makes the fatal mistake of swimming directly to the bottom once released from the live wells; there it is ambushed by hungry grouper. This often triggers the larger, once pickier fish to bite. We caught a bunch of big groupers after chumming. Within seconds of the release of a dozen free pinfish, large gag groupers were flopping around the deck.
Full bellies: Each big grouper that was fooled had multiple pinfish in its belly. It simply dropped its guard for a moment as free baitfish frantically swam directly toward it. All fish have a trigger mechanism that causes short feeding frenzies. This is one of my most effective winter tactics for gag groupers.
Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 595-3276, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.jawstoo.com.