What’s hot: With water temperatures climbing into the mid 80s inside of 100 feet, anglers looking for gag grouper should concentrate in 120 feet and deeper. Though there are legal-sized gags in 30 feet and shallower, the best spot for the next few months will be north of Clearwater in 80-140 feet.
Tips: Look for sharp rises or drops in areas of hard bottom. Gags love to hide in small cracks and crevices on ledges, dart out to gobble up prey and quickly run back to hide. Live baits are a must until November, and large ones provide a better edge. They should be pinned to 8/0-10/0 circle hooks and attached to a 60- to 80-pound leader at least 4 feet long.
Best time: Waters from Sarasota to Bayport have been infested with a new hatch of sardines. These tiny baits are just about everywhere in 50-100 feet. They are the main diet of most species in this area, including grouper. Get on the water early, before they are done feeding for the day.
Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.