Hernando County By: Capt. Joel Gant

Beware of the Gumbo

Gag grouper season opened June 1st. Reports of both red and gag grouper are being caught in anywhere from 15 to 70 feet of water. Just be aware that there is an algae bloom that we call slime, gumbo or, what I call it, slimy cotton. This is from about 20 to 35 feet (this can change with currents). I’ve been told that this is a natural occurrence that happens every year as the Gulf water temperature rises and can last for weeks. This, I’m also told, is not related to red tide. Hopefully, by the time this article comes out it will be gone.

Fishing on either side of it has been the most productive. The most popular way in this area to target grouper is bottom fishing. Using live pinfish, cut bait or frozen threadfin will usually get the hungry ones to bite. Use a stout rod with at least 60-pound line, a 7/0 circle hook and enough weight to keep your bait on the bottom. I like to cut up some bait and do a little chumming. This helps get the grunts in a frenzy, which means action will bring action. You can usually get plenty of nice size grunts which are great to eat.

Another tactic in the area that works well is to troll. Make sure the lure you’re using is made for the depth you’re fishing. This is one of my favorite ways to target not only grouper but kingfish and cobia. You can cover a lot of ground and also keep an eye on your bottom finder to locate new rocks you never knew were there. This is a great way to find new spots.

Scallop season opens on July 1st here in Hernando Beach. Pasco has a short season from July 16th to 25th. This is a great time to take your boat, or hire a guide to take the family out for a saltwater Easter egg hunt as we call it. If you don’t have a boat, there are pontoon rentals available from the local marinas. Usually you’re in 4 to 6 feet of water with just a mask, fins and a snorkel. If you don’t have spots, don’t worry, Just head north from Hernando Beach and look for groups of boats. Also, try some spots near the pack (sometimes it’s monkey see, monkey do). Check the regulations on myfwc.com for your area and, as always, use a diver down flag while in the water (not while you’re moving). Move slowly when in an area with a lot of boats—be safe.

Get out there on the water and make some memories with friends and family!