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The past week has been perfect for going offshore and finding keepers. The winds have been light with an easterly component, and we have been able to run as deep as we have wanted.

The really good news is the grouper have remained fairly close to the beach. Our largest fish during the past week has come from 2- and 3-foot ledges in 115 feet, but we also have caught keepers in as shallow as 35 feet.

The fish closer to the beach have bit mostly dead bait. The fish in depths of more than 100 feet have been surprisingly aggressive going after live pinfish.

We made one trip to 130 feet searching for blackfin. We fished nine boats and did not find a tuna. There have been scattered reports of them being caught, but they have not become consistent yet.

Amberjack fishing will continue to get better until early spring. Wrecks from 85 to 150 feet out will hold them. Set your bottom machine so you can see the entire water column. AJs normally show up around the midwater mark as long lines. Also don't be surprised if they come to the surface in a large school.

You can free-line live bait to surface fish. At greater depths, lower live bait on a heavy rod _ using at least a 6-foot leader and enough weight to get the bait down.

Mike Whitman charters the Mega-Bite out of Gulfport. Call (727) 384-5729, view the Web site at or e-mail