There has been a silver lining in the onslaught of cold fronts and their high winds and rough seas: Bottom fisherman have been unable to reduce the gag grouper population. Monday was an exception: It dawned with east winds less than 10 knots and seas less than 2 feet.
Mickey Callahan booked Andy Kotsaftis on the Lucky Too to go bottom fishing with his brother Wayne from Moosehead Lake, Maine, and brother-in-law Mike Wolfe from Seattle. Kotsaftis explained they had two strikes against them: The water was dirty from the recent winds; and the moon was full, not the best phase for bottom fishing because of the strong tides.
When bottom fishing this time of year we bring frozen Spanish sardines, squid and live pinfish because with the 62-degree water, you never can be sure what will trigger a bite. But the live bait well pump failed, so keeping pinfish alive was out of the question. Kotsaftis had to travel to the 55- to 60-foot range to find clean water, and the trip was worth it. Six gag grouper and many large white grunts were in the fish box. Several sharks 20 to 30 pounds were released unharmed.
The key was fishing with halves of Spanish sardines and a piece of squid to provide sight and smell for the gags, which are feeding heavily in preparation for winter.
- 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