By RANDY ROCHELLE
© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 11, 2001
The red grouper bite has been steadily getting better the past couple of weeks. The most productive spots have hard bottoms south of the Mexican Pride in 110-135 feet. Look for areas with a show of fish on the bottom, then throw out a marker to the spot.
After marking the area, motor upwind or upcurrent, drop a couple of baits down and slowly drift along, dragging your baits along the bottom. You might have to let out a little line every few seconds to keep your bait on the bottom.
When you start getting bites, check where you are in relation to the marker as this will give you a line for your next drift and an idea of the area's size. Drift different areas around the marker as these hard-bottom areas can be the size of a house or of Raymond James Stadium.
Using different live and frozen baits has been key in keeping the bite going and getting big grouper to bite. The best baits have been butterflied squirrelfish and small vermilion snapper. Both can be caught over the same hard-bottom areas, using gold hook rigs on the bottom.
The biggest problem has been the number of small sharks holding over these same areas. Once you've caught a couple of sharks you're going to have to move unless you don't mind catching five to 10 sharks for every grouper.
- Randy Rochelle runs Islander Charters in St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 528-1213 or by e-mail at Islandercharters@ij.net.