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Captain's corner

By RANDY ROCHELLE

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 31, 2000


We know red grouper are holding on areas of hard bottom in 90-130 feet. You will want to use 6 feet 6 to 7-6 heavy grouper rods with 4/0-size reels spooled up with 50- to 60-pound test line. You will need 3-4 feet of 60- to 80-pound test leader and a 5/0-8/0 hook of your favorite type.

I prefer 5/0-7/0 circle wide hooks. I seem to get a better hookup ratio with less gut-hooked fish. Use enough lead to hold you on the bottom as you drift; usually 5-8 ounces is enough. I like swivel-type sinkers for drift fishing. Frozen Spanish sardines with the tails pinched off and hooked through the eyes are a good bait. Make sure the sardine has no bends, or the bait will spin on the way down, tangling your line. If the bite slows on frozen bait, try live sardines, grunts or pinfish. The best bait I've found for large red grouper is live vermilion snapper. Drift slowly; .3 to .7 knots is a good speed -- any faster and your baits will float up (you might want to use a sea anchor to slow your drift). Feed out a little line every few seconds to keep your bait dragging. Once you've hooked a fish or two, throw out a marker for a reference point on your next drift. Remember not to set the hook when you feel the fish, just reel as hard as you can to get the fish off the bottom. If you know it's a small fish, bring it in slowly so it can be released without harm.

- Randy Rochelle runs Islander Charters in St. Petersburg. Call (727) 528-1213.

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