© St. Petersburg Times, published September 8, 2002
Encouraging news for those who like fishing in the bay: On two recent trips, winds and rough seas forced me to fish the bay, and I was rewarded with nice gag grouper weighing as much as 14 pounds.
We caught grouper both days trolling a mix of jigs and deep-diving plugs. The best bites came on 8-ounce jigs with 8-inch grub tails. The best colors are pink and silver flake or chartreuse and silver flake. Use a standard grouper rod and reel with 50-pound line. Tie 6 feet of 80-pound mono leader to the main line, attach the leader to the jig, then all you need are a pair of downriggers to troll.
Drop the jig back 50-60 feet and attach the line to the downrigger with a release clip. Lower the downrigger ball to within 4 feet of the bottom.
Trolling speed should be 4-5 mph. The best places to start are both sides of the channel and old piles of rubble left over from the old Sunshine Skyway bridge. If you don't have downriggers, try trolling black and gold diving baits at the same speed.
-- Randy Rochelle runs Islander Charters in St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 528-1213 or by e-mail at Islandercharters@ij.net.