The Tampa Bay Times

Dave Zalewski 460-9893The closure of red grouper and Lane snapper until January 1 has caused us to change our daily game plan regarding bottom fishing. At this time of year we would be targeting them along with white grunts, porgies, vermillion and mangrove snapper in the 80 to 90 foot depths. Red grouper and vermillion snapper like to inhabit the “Swiss Cheese” limestone areas that consist of hard bottom that contains cracks, holes and low profile structure. Now we are concentrating our efforts in much shallower water 40 to 60 feet targeting gag grouper, white grunts and hogfish. The bonus is that while there are not as many keepers in those depths it gives us more fishing time because we do not have to run as far.. Gags can be targeted by either trolling with deep diving plugs or #3 or 4 planers with a blue or gold small lipped plug or a large jig with a shad tail. Slowing trolling speed to 4.5 knots will expose the lures to the fish for a longer period of time. The traditional method is to anchor over a higher profile ledge and fish wit various baits, Squid and sardines are favored to get the bite started and then switch to a live pinfish once the activity from the smaller reef fish draws in the larger predator.
White grunts, porgies and sea bass inhabit these same ledges and can be caught by using a 2 hook dropper rig, 3/0 hooks and strips of squid.