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On a recent fishing trip for trout, redfish and snook, we ended up catching keeper grouper on the flats. We put down the trolling motor at the mouth of a Tierra Verde canal and started pitching whitebaits against mangroves on one side and docks on the other.

We waited to hear that familiar popping sound of fish feeding on the surface. It didn't take long to hear snook popping baits. Anchoring the boat within casting distance of the baits being blasted, we hooked several baits and tossed them into the action. But nothing happened. More chum went into the water, and they got blasted again. This time we got a hook. The fish ran and acted like a nice redfish. The angler wanted to keep one fish to eat, and he got his wish with a 22-inch gag grouper. The next hour brought two more keepers and a half-dozen fish in the 17- to 20-inch range.

It's not unusual to catch grouper in Tampa Bay on the flats, but keepers usually are reserved for the channels, breaks areas. This action should continue as long as the bait stays abundant.

_ Keith Williams captains Big Gulp out of Seminole. Call 398-1126.