By DOUG HEMMER
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 14, 2000
The warm waters of summer push grouper farther off shore in search of cooler water and schools of bait. Large pods of grouper can be found on the cheese bottom and beneath the bait schools in 80 to 100 feet of water west of John's Pass.
Drift the cheese bottom until you catch a grouper, mark the spot with a jug and anchor slightly upcurrent. Fish with squid to chum the bottom for at least 20 minutes before switching to live bait. It takes that long for the squid scent to travel over the bottom and tickle the nose of a 20-pound lunker.
Pinfish is the No. 1 bait for grouper because they are easy to catch and stay alive longer, and grouper love them. Grouper will follow bait schools that spend the summer in the deeper waters of the gulf.
Look for bait on the surface; then use your recorder to mark the pods that are hanging closer to the bottom. Make sure you keep one eye on the recorder while fishing. If the bait school swims away, the grouper will follow.
Tarpon are scattered from the gulf to the river mouths of upper Tampa Bay. Fish any area you see a fish roll. You will not see a lot of tarpon on the surface, but if one is rolling, you can bet more are underneath. Shad and ladyfish soaked on the bottom have been producing the most strikes.
Warm water and an influx of baby threadfin have made flat fishing difficult.
Try fishing for trout over grass that is in 5-7 feet of water. Redfish have been striking a small white bait stuck on a small hook beneath a small bobber.
The North Skyway Pier reports good catches of mackerel and grouper. The Redington pier is the hot spot for tarpon. It also reports catches of flounder, cobia and silver trout.
When fishing in the summer, schedule trips during the fastest tidal movement. Moving water helps flush out warm, stagnant water during slack tides. A sudden drop in water temperature usually will spark a feeding frenzy. Placing a gallon jug of frozen water in your live well will help keep bait alive and frisky. Have patience when fishing in hot weather. Give the fish plenty of time to check out your bait before trying another spot. If you still can't get the fish to eat, try a lighter test.