Recent good weather and a rise in water temperatures have led to great fishing offshore and inshore.
Gag grouper have become active in 50 to 60 feet. Calm seas have allowed us to run to almost any depth we choose. After making a long run offshore and finding the fishing slow, a return to shallower depths provided excellent fishing for gag and red grouper, triggerfish and large white grunts, often called Key West grunts or gray snapper. No matter what they are called they make excellent table fare because their diet consists mainly of shrimp and crustaceans.
Gag grouper seem to have returned to ledges and other structure with the warming water. When water temperatures were in the 50s we were catching most of our fish on hard-bottom areas adjacent to artificial reefs and ledges, where grouper seemed to be foraging on crabs, eels and other food there. With the warming of the water it appears baitfish have returned to the ledges, and the gags have followed.
Sheepshead do not seem to be affected by water temperatures like most other fish, and they have invaded bridges and dock pilings near every pass emptying into the gulf. They are in a prespawn condition and are feeding heavily, providing great action from shore and small boats. Johnboaters and kayakers are at an advantage because they can maneuver into areas near structure.
Cut shrimp, small crabs, sand fleas, barnacles and green mussels work as sheepshead bait when combined with 1/0 short-shanked bait hooks or small circle hooks. Braided line provides better feel with these bait-stealers. Chumming with a scraper or shovel by knocking barnacles or oysters into the water usually starts a frenzy if the fish are present.
Redfish, sheepshead, trout, flounder and whiting are being caught at the gulf piers and the Sunshine Skyway fishing piers around the clock.
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