The Tampa Bay Times

By Ed Walker

Cooler water has inspired the gag grouper to bite. From inside Tampa Bay to Homosassa reports of great gag action have poured in. Finding the hot spots is not that hard to do with one notable exception; there are areas where summer red tide killed or displaced the gags. Those probably will not recover for the remainder of this year. From 12 to 35 feet off Tarpon Springs we have found very few gags, or anything else. Trial and error with eventually show you which areas to fish, and which to avoid.

Contrary to popular belief, gag grouper do not seem migrate inshore during the cooler months, they just bite better. Some research projects have shown that the same fish are in residence most of the year but are sluggish to feed. After a few big cold fronts come through the bite fires up and it seems like gag have appeared from nowhere.

In one gag research project, FWC biologists tagged gags on 4 different sites with acoustic telemetry tags- you might think of them as “pingers”. Each fish then could be monitored by the sound it emitted. We dove down and installed listening devices called “receivers” on the bottom then monitored the “pinger fish” 24/7 for several years- periodically returning to tag more and swap out the data collecting receivers.  The results of the multi-year study showed that most gags stayed on the exact same spot for over 160 days and some stayed for over a year. No seasonal shift was noted.