Attention has turned to gag grouper and red snapper for many offshore fishermen. Red snapper can be best targeted in waters 105 feet and deeper, with some available in water as shallow as 60 feet. Although the snapper will be found on high profile structures such as wrecks and ledges, we have found most of our fish inhabiting the same swiss cheese bottom as red grouper. It has become standard operating procedure to deploy a stinger rigged flatline with a live or frozen sardine to entice pelagic fish such as kingfish, blackfin tuna, or a barracuda when fishing in the deep blue water. We normally put out 50 to 60 feet of line to allow the frozen bait to suspend in the water column. A pleasant surprise has occurred several times when the flatline went off with a powerful surge, and when the fish was landed it turned out to be a red snapper. We are now putting out as much as 100 feet of line and chumming with small slivers of sardine. The bait remains suspended at a much deeper depth than customary and has produced more strikes on some spots that the usual bottom fishing methods. Spanish mackerel are not as abundant close to the shoreline as they have been, and best results have occurred on the band of hard bottom that is about 3 miles from shore. Look for the dark patches that indicate rocky areas and troll between them until fish are located, which should not take long. No. 1 planers, a silver or gold 0 or 1 spoon with 30 feet of leader is all that is needed.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.