Hernando County Report By: Capt. Joel Gant

That’s right, it’s that time of year again,  a chill in the air, decorations being hung, Christmas trees up and one of the best fishing times of year. The water temperature has dropped and the fish are eating. From offshore to inshore, the bite is great.

On recent trips we have been getting some nice numbers and sizes of gag groupers. With the season ending at the end of this month, now is the time to get out and test your endurance and gear. The size limit is still 24 inches and two per person.

There are many different ways to target these hard fighting fish; most anglers will anchor on structure and bottom fish. Everyone has their own way of gearing up for bottom fishing. I like to use a conventional reel with at least 60 pound mono, about a four ounce egg weight and a 7/0 circle hook (you have to use circle hooks when reef fishing).

Baits can range from live baits, frozen or cut baits. Sometimes the bite will be quick or you may need to be patient. Chumming can also turn a slow bite into a feeding frenzy.

One of my favorite ways to target grouper is to troll for them. Pick a diving lure that matches the depth your fishing. On charters, this is a good way to kick back and enjoy the anticipation of the drag screaming strike. If the grass is thick on the surface, this can be a difficult method.

With the cooler water the grouper will move in closer to shore. A solid grouper on a light inshore spinning outfit can be great fun, make sure your rods are geared up and ready to go.

Another species to target offshore is the mangrove snapper. Snappers like structure, such as rock piles. Use lighter gear like you would use for inshore snappers. A small hook or a jighead tipped with a piece of shrimp will put a few fish in to the boat.  The size limit on these fish is 10 inches in state waters and 12 inches in federal waters. You’re allowed to keep five fish per person.

Inshore fishing is also on fire; redfish and trout are moving into the backwater flats. Live shrimp, creek chubs, pinfish or artificial lures are working well on these fish. There are also reports of nice snook being caught in our area. Target the shorelines with any type of structure around it. Always remember fish are structure oriented.

Get out there on the water and make some memories with friends and family! I’m always looking for reports and pictures. You can email me or stop by my website and become a “FISHHEAD”.