Captain's Corner

By DAVE ZALEWSKI, Times Correspondent
Published January 26, 2008

What's hot: Once the high winds abated and seas returned to normal allowing us to venture offshore, we experienced some of the great bottom fishing that occurs between fronts in the winter months. We put red and gag grouper, large triggerfish, white grunts and scamp in the fish box on every trip. Mangrove snapper added color to the box on some days.

Tip: Because of their larger mouth and a tendency to inhale baits, gag and red grouper can be targeted using hooks sized at least 6/0 and larger along with larger baits such as whole frozen sardines, halves of squid and pinfish. Most other reef fish that inhabit the same areas as the grouper have much smaller mouths and require smaller hooks such as 1/0 and 2/0. Live bait or circle hooks are most effective when used with small chunks of cut sardine or strips of squid. Twenty-pound test spinning or conventional tackle is sufficient for these smaller fish. Their bite can be felt better with the use of lighter tackle.

Tactics: Gag grouper tend to stay close to ledges and higher profile structure when the water is warm. Now that temperatures have dropped into the low 60s, they can also be found foraging over rocky outcroppings near these ledges. Any outcropping that holds bait usually also holds a concentration of gag grouper and triggerfish.

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.