With Red Tide affecting our nearshore and offshore waters, we've had problems getting our wells full of live pinfish and threadfin herring. Live bait is crucial offshore and will continue to be the bait of choice until water temperatures get into the lower 70s. New technology is assisting us in solving our dilemma. Oxygen systems are fast becoming standard on inshore and offshore fishing boats. The injection of pure oxygen in a bait well helps keep bait alive through most conditions, including Red Tide or extremely warm water. These systems use a diffuser stone to concentrate the oxygen into microbubbles that saturate the water in the well with pure oxygen, thus giving bait an environment that's actually better than the water they came from. Our baits have been alive and frisky in the well even after driving through as much as 15 miles of Red Tide on trips offshore. Using these lively baits offshore on a recent trip we caught gag and red grouper up to 20 pounds on ledges in 135 feet of water. These fish are in traveling mode as they make their way inshore for winter migration. We work larger areas to find the concentrations of fish. Snapper fishing is still strong. Trips to depths as shallow as 80 feet are producing great catches. Mangrove snapper will eat frozen sardines, but a live cigar minnow or Spanish sardine usually produce a better quality fish. There have also been large schools of yellowtail snapper invading some of the wrecks in 100-140 feet.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.