Offshore waters are dirty, but the fishing has been hot in some areas.
Most of the trips in 100 feet or deeper are less productive then those in shallower areas. Captains are reporting good catches of mackerel and legal-size gag grouper in 40 to 60 feet. The macks are striking spoons trolled over artificial reefs.
Grouper are eating frozen sardines, squid and live pinfish. The best areas are the 2- to 4-foot ledges west and northwest of John's Pass.
In the coming days look for good numbers of cobia around the artificial reefs and buoys in 30 to 40 feet. Some days you will see cobia cruising on the surface or hanging close to the buoys. Other days they stay closer to bottom. If you don't see them, put a few live baits on the bottom or deep-jig near the markers. The early part of the run produces real bruisers, so use 50-pound tackle or stronger to catch the big ones.
Redfish are moving through the mangrove roots and oyster bars during the higher tides. When the tide starts moving out, most of the school reds stop feeding until they reach the edge of the flats. They will start feeding heavily on dropoffs until the tide starts coming in. Most of the trout will be along this dropoff area, too. Jigs dragged close to the bottom draw strikes from trout in the 13- to 20-inch range. The larger ones are hitting topwater plugs inside the dropoff during low-light hours.
Snook are stacking up just inside area passes. They are hanging under the docks and bridges closest to a pass. The hottest bait has been a live free-lined grunt. If you can't get in a position to free-line, use enough weight to keep the bait under or close to the structure. During the past week, John's Pass was the place to fish.
The north Sunshine Skyway pier reports good numbers of mackerel and grouper. The grouper action is best just after sunup and close to sundown. Live pinfish are the bait of choice. The mackerel are feeding best during the strongest tides. The macks are falling for a corked whitebait or a small spoon.
Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.