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During the winter, it takes the right weather and the proper boat to effectively target fish in the gulf. Water temperatures within 10 miles remain in the 50s, leaving grouper uninterested in food.DL:

The inshore winter blues have forced many anglers far out. The trips have been quite rewarding, with clients bringing back mangrove snapper, grouper and amberjack. Huge schools of Spanish sardines and cigar minnows can easily be detected at the surface about 20 miles out. At about 105 feet of water (40 miles), things start to improve. Clarity is wonderful, aided by tolerable 65-degree water.

Mangrove snapper have been abundant on rock piles, with some gag grouper mixed in. Our past two trips produced a few gags in the high teens, averaging about 34 inches. Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella was my guest on one trip. He possesses a great passion for fishing. His first bait dropped to the bottom produced a mangrove snapper weighing 6 pounds. We steadily caught big mangos and huge gags for about an hour.

Within minutes a strong cold front pushed through, cranking winds up to 20 knots and seas to 5-6 feet. This forced us to port early. The day consisted mostly of driving west, then jigging up bait for an hour, with a short period of fishing. Our results were grand compared with the poor fishing closer to shore.

_ Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 595-3276, or e-mail