By LARRY HOFFMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 7, 2001
The hot topic has been the chilly weather and the Gulf of Mexico's dropping water temperature. You can expect to get good grouper action in 50-100 feet, where the water temperature on the bottom will be close to 60 degrees. I have concentrated my fishing south of Egmont Channel 10-15 miles, where the water is a little warmer.
Hard-bottom areas in 55-70 feet have been producing good gags and mangrove snapper. This is a great time of year to target freshwater springs. The advantage of fishing springs is that the water is normally warmer and the springs will hold lane, yellow tail and mangrove snapper, amberjack and grouper. I enjoy springs because you can target multiple species.
You need to have 30-pound class tackle for the snapper and 50- to 60-pound class tackle for the jacks and grouper. Start using frozen sardines and squid. Cut your sardines in half to catch the snapper and use a No. 2 offset hook with squid to catch the lanes. Use live bait and diamond-type jigs for the amberjack. Big blue runners, grunts and pinfish should produce keeper grouper and amberjack.
-- Larry "Huffy" Hoffman charters the Enterprise out of Kingfish Wharf, Treasure Island. Call (727) 709-9396.