’Tis the season … to be getting in on some outstanding shallow-water bottom fishing. Grouper, mangos and hogfish have been our focus, and at times the bycatch has been equally impressive. Triggerfish, porgies, scamp, mackerel, sheepshead and more grunts than you probably care to catch keep the action nonstop on pieces of shrimp or whole ones. Our past several trips have been inside 45 feet, and others have reported doing well in 35. A buddy in the past two weeks has caught four keeper grouper off the seawall at his job site. Though it wouldn’t be fair to reveal his “secret” hole, you can clearly see the Merry Pier on Pass-a-Grille. We’ve been catching our fair share of grouper on the frozen stuff, but with water temperatures creeping back up, livies might become more productive. Bait schools that had scattered during the wind and cold have begun to regroup. They might be found at bridges, sea buoys at the mouths of area passes or along the beaches. Some might require anchoring and chumming. If you plan on going, conditions are conducive to creating hazardous fog that at times has been extremely dense. A compass and GPS help, but they don’t show everything between you and your destination. Go slow, stay safe and happy holidays.

Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.

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