© St. Petersburg Times, published February 18, 2003
With water temperatures holding in the mid to upper 50s, grouper bites inside the 100-foot mark remain slow. But that could change. The past few days the air temperature has been in the upper 70s to low 80s, and if the warming trend continues, it won't be long before the grouper start to feed. Until water temperatures reach the mid 60s, you need to pass the 100-foot mark to consistently score keeper-size grouper.
The first pods of bait have started appearing around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and some deeper wrecks and areas of hard bottom. Now is a good time to tie stinger rigs, respool reels and get kingfish gear in order, though the kings are a few weeks away. Snapper bites 5-8 miles south of Egmont Channel have been fairly consistent. Look for shows of fish holding over small to medium ledges at 60-90 feet. They may not bite immediately, so if you have a good show of fish, give them time to start chewing. Use small chunks of frozen sardines with the hook hidden inside to fool the snapper into biting.
-- Randy Rochelle runs Islander Charters in St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 528-1213 or by e-mail at Islandercharters@ij.net.