What's hot: Red snapper fishing continues to be easier than catching bait. Longer runs to depths of 120 to 160 feet have been an everyday occurrence.
In these depths, look for small rolloffs and ledges with large towering fish showing on the bottom edge. Anchor over the spot and drop sardines to the bottom. Put the reel in gear and slowly crank the bait back toward the surface. If fish are there, they will not let your bait get more than 20 feet off the bottom before grabbing it.
Another technique is the knocker rig. A spinning rod with a small 1-ounce or lighter lead pinned right to the hookwill fall slower and stay in the snappers' strike zone longer.
Another option: Red grouper is also hot. The places that hold red snapper also hold large red grouper. After the snapper bite slows, drop larger live baits to the bottom. Red grouper in the 20-pound class have been common. These fish often will just stroll up to a bait and suck it right in, making detecting the bite a little harder. If you feel anything, start reeling as fast as you can. If a fish is there, you will know right away.
Covering ground: Being able to find new spots can be a big problem. Trolling is a very effective way to find one. A small spread of lures such as Billy baits or small Islander lures trolled from 5 to 7 knots will get plenty of action from mahi, blackfin tuna, kingfish and others while the captain studies the bottom machine in search of new spots. Keep in mind that most of the hard bottom in this area runs from the southeast to the northwest. So when a spot is found, run these directions to make sure the boat is staying over the hard areas and not on sand.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 or www.fintasticinc.com.