tampabay.com

Captain's corner

Starting Feb. 15, federal waters will be closed to red and gag grouper fishing for a month.

By LARRY HOFFMAN
Published February 8, 2007


What's hot: Dust off your near-shore grouper numbers because starting Feb. 15, federal waters will be closed to red and gag grouper fishing for a month. We traditionally enjoy near-shore grouper fishing this time of year, but the last two seasons of red tide took a toll on some good bottom fishing. There is still plenty of good hard bottom and ledges holding gags. Any piece of hard bottom can hold grouper; small ledges are best.

Tactics: We have had some luck 7 to 8 miles offshore in 35- to 45-foot depths catching a few keeper gags on live bait. Medium-sized pinfish and grass grunts have been the best. Most gags inside 9 miles are shorts, and we have not caught any red grouper that are keepers.

Tips: White grunts and trigger fish are abundant and make for some fun action. Use a double porky rig with the weight on the bottom of your line for best results. Pieces of squid on No. 2/0 hooks will get the job done. When we take young kids fishing we always target the grunts; they are plentiful, easy to catch and are great table fare. Trigger fish are also good eating but not easy to clean. They have a tough hide and you need a strong knife which you'll have to sharpen often. Silver trout are abundant and can be caught on small yellow and white jigs. You will find the trout by using your bottom machine. They will show up in big groups in 15 to 20 feet of water along our shore. A good place to look for silver trout is between John's Pass and Redington Pier.

Larry "Huffy" Hoffman charters out of John's Pass, Treasure Island. Call (727) 709-9396 or e-mail him at huffyl@tampabay.rr.com.