The new year offers a variety of fish to target, so break out the Christmas gifts and put them to good use.
Grouper are abundant on almost every rocky bottom spot from 20 miles offshore to within a mile of the beach. Kingfish are aggressively hitting live baits at about the 15-mile mark. And sheepshead have made their annual appearance along residential docks, sea walls, oyster beds and rock jetties.
All depths have been reported as productive to target tasty gag grouper. But I have found great numbers of fish on all the shallow spots (20 feet). Some are a whopping 20 pounds-plus. Live pinfish is the best bait.
The kings refuse to leave the area until the water temperature drops below 65 degrees. At about 50 feet or 15 miles, the water will be a tad warmer than along the coast, resulting in good numbers of fish. This has made for one of the longest kingfish runs in years. Offshore wrecks and artificial reefs at this depth have been holding delicious Spanish sardines that kingfish can't resist. I suggest jigging up a few baits and fishing those areas for the big kingfish.
One of the tastiest fish is sheepshead. White, flaky and mild best describe it. Each year at about this time, the normally picky sheepshead cut loose and eat just about every crustacean in front of them. Take advantage of the great bite.
_ Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 595-3276.