There's no need to worry about cold water affecting the offshore fishing. The key during the winter is to travel west to more tolerable conditions.
Once you hit the 25-mile mark, slow down and monitor the sonar.
Giant schools of Spanish sardines and cigar minnows easily can be jigged up after you find them at the 85-90 foot depths. Massive schools of hand-size pinfish are normally found close by.
The combination of these three baits will get the job done.
We have worked the same coral reefs that hold the bait. It seems odd to drop a baitfish that was jigged up only moments before, but it works. Even with all the free food along the bottom, red and gag grouper eat the one with the hook.
Giant mangrove snapper also have made occasional appearances at these locations. Our past two outings produced 15 mangrove snapper of 3 to 6 pounds. The same number of gag and red grouper also were caught.
Some of the bait schools don't attract big fish, so don't get discouraged if the action doesn't start immediately. Eventually you'll hit the right school and bring home some fillets.
Give each spot about 20 minutes, because the fish do not get fired up immediately.
Be sure to keep jigging up baits even if the livewells are full. The commotion along the bottom will attract bigger fish.
- Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call 727 595-3276, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org