Pro Insider – Grouper on Track for another Strong Year

During cold and windy months, weather is often uncooperative with trips offshore. There are many tools to assist in picking the best days to be out. Weather-forecasting apps on phones help, but other resources such as “real-time buoy data” and beach-facing “webcams” also help make decisions easier. Red grouper are on track for another banner year. There are good numbers in 70-130 feet. On a recent trip to 100 feet we only had to fish two stops to secure a quick boat limit of the tasty grouper. The fish crushed both live and frozen baits as soon as they hit bottom. Typical “Digging Gear” in the 50-80-pound range will work as these fish reside in areas with a very low profile, so there shouldn’t be too much for them to get into down there. Snapper fishing should remain steady. Recent trips to depths of 50-75 feet have been rewarded with mangrove, yellowtail and lane snapper. My preference for targeting these fish is what’s called “free-falling”. There are a few variations of this style. Some include the use of a small quarter- to half-ounce jig head tipped with shrimp or cut bait, while others are more of a free-lined bait with no lead. The key is chumming just enough to get the snapper off of the bottom, but don’t overdo it as this will cause the chum to make it all the way to the bottom and keep the fish down. Lighten your leader as much as needed to ensure a bite.

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

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