Pro Insider – Deeper Water, Better Luck

Red grouper fishing offshore in depths of 90-130 feet has been spectacular. We have had fun catching these fish on a large variety of both artificial and natural baits. These fish are staging under huge schools of juvenile sardines, which are much harder to catch than the larger sardines we have been using for bait. As for artificial baits, we have had our best luck with medium sized buck-tails, 3 or 4 ounces. A rapid retrieve about 20 feet or so off the bottom, drop and repeat has worked best. Many of these fish are 8-20 pounds, so a bit heavier tackle is advised to keep them from the rocks below. The blackfin tuna bite has been consistent this month, and this is just the beginning. Every year these beautiful, pelagic speedsters appear in depths of 100 feet or so, but since there is so much bait inshore this year there are reports of some caught in 40 feet. When targeting these fish look for high-profile spots such as wrecks and springs, then anchor and begin chumming. Chunks of frozen chum will work but the best results will be found behind the boats with live wells filled with pilchards. You will see the tuna blowing up these baits around the boat, and that is when the rods should hit the water. Mangrove snapper fishing is on track for a banner year. Concentrate on 80- to 120-foot depths on ledges and rockpiles. Again, chumming will help gather these fish under the boat. Light fluorocarbon leaders will work best.

Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and

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