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Calm waters allowed us to venture far into the gulf recently. The results were rewarding, allowing us to catch large amberjacks and groupers.

We were able to jig up a livewell full of Spanish sardines, cigar minnows and blue runners at about the 100-foot mark. The bait schools were easy to detect with the calm conditions. We could see them working the surface from a quarter-mile away. After filling the wells, we ran to about the 60-mile mark over a sunken shrimp boat wreck.

Amberjacks were in a massive school swimming directly to our boat as we slowed. Our limit of one per person was met with ease. Two of the jacks weighed 43 pounds. The others were a modest 25-30 pounds. Blue runners were their bait of choice. Tossing a free-lined runner behind the boat provided an awesome sight. Four jacks attacked the frantic runner at the surface. We watched as each jack took turns, crashing the blue runner until it was inhaled.

After our productive jack fishing, we searched for grouper. Working the depths of 125 feet produced impressive-sized reds. Bait stacks were abundant and found huddling close to the bottom. There wasn't much grouper to be brought up from around the bait stacks, but what we landed was huge. Two hours of grouper digging enabled us to catch five fish. Their total weight: 95 pounds. Not a bad way to kick off the new year.

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