If the weather allows, there is great fishing far offshore. At this time of year, grouper can be found on most inshore rocks. But the cold weather makes anglers work for it.
On calm days, it can be rewarding if you blast over inshore fish and travel about 60 miles toward the middle grounds. Of course, it takes the proper vessel to take such a journey (plus enough fuel and safety equipment), but it's worth the ride. Amberjack, grouper, snapper and even a few kings can be taken. Water temperatures are more tolerable, broadening their appetites.
A prespawn gathering also starts to take place as mature gag grouper from all depths congregate. Large males primarily swim from the deeper part of the gulf. They usually weigh 20-50 pounds. Females are smaller and travel from all directions. All gather around structures that hold food, and there are many ledges and peaks.
As many as 500 fish can gather. The bite can be like nothing any inshore grouper fisherman has experienced. Baits will be attacked as they descend, sometimes making it only halfway to the bottom because the grouper stack from the bottom up for 50-60 feet. The top of the school holds most of the fish.
- Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call 727 595-3276, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org