The trend has been to run farther and farther offshore to catch enough fish to make it worthwhile. Red Tide had all but wiped out the regular inshore residents, such as grunts, baitfish and others, including grouper. So going deep might be the only way to fill the box. That’s not to say you can’t catch some fish inshore; just not what veteran fishermen are used to, especially during the month of December. Usually during the late fall season we expect the arrival of the gangs of gag grouper. When the weather begins to cool they move as a massive school, overrunning the near-shore hard bottom reefs. It’s not unusual to find them in very shallow – only a mile or so from shore. But since there was little to nothing for the gags to eat, they avoided the shallow water this year. Most of the fish remain well offshore. There were a few exceptions, especially in the bay. The forecast for this weekend is almost ideal. Weather conditions are something to consider when deciding to go deep. Some choose their destination based on the wind direction. For example; a strong east wind makes for a nice ride out, but a miserable ride home. Since gag grouper closes on January 1, targeting those fish won’t be necessary after that date. However, red grouper and lots of other deep water bottom fish can fill their place in the cooler. As always, we encourage catch and release. Just be sure to choose your day out carefully; there’s always next year to catch the big one.
Larry Blue charters the Niki Joe from Madeira Beach Marina. Call (727) 871-1058 or visit www.CaptainLarryBlue.com