© St. Petersburg Times, published February 17, 2002
It appears the grouper are as confused as the angles seeking them.
In a normal winter, gag grouper are found on the ledges and rock piles in water as shallow as 15 feet. The mild weather has caused concentrations of bait to gather in the 50- to 60-foot depths. Many of the gags that are found in shallow water have moved offshore to feed on these bait piles.
Stopping on the reefs or wrecks and using sabiki rigs to catch bait will allow a "match the hatch" approach to be used for nearby spots.
Even though the days are warm, the water on the bottom is not. Allow extra time on each spot for the fish to become active. If the current is not strong, small pieces of cut sardines dropped overboard will help trigger feeding activity. If the current is strong, a frozen block of chum lowered to the bottom in a chum basket will draw the fish from a distance.
Before leaving a spot, make note of which direction the current is running and either let out some anchor or take it up to see if the fish have been chummed to just in front of or just behind where the baits have been. Paying attention to your surroundings may result in the discovery of a new "secret" spot.
-- Capt. Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at (727) 397-8815 or by e-mail at Luckytoo2@aol.com.