Hernando Report: Last Call By Capt. Joel Gant

That’s right, it’s last (month) call for catching the gag grouper. In between the cold fronts, and with it rough water, the endless pursuit for the allusive grouper continues. The season to be able to keep gag grouper ends on December 31st. With the cooler waters, they can also be caught shallower. From 6 to 30 feet, these hard-fighting fish can put a workout on you and your equipment. I like to use, at a minimum, 4/0 conventional reel with 60-pound Ande mono line, 3 to 4-pound egg weight, strong leader and a 7/0 hook. Baits to use are live baits (pinfish, pigfish or white bait), frozen baits (threadfins, sardines, mullet or squid) or fresh cut baits. Allow the bait to sit on the bottom and not bouncing. Once you feel some hard taps, let the fish take the bait and set the circle hook themselves and then reel reel reel. Circle hooks are mandatory for reef fish and if you try to set the hook, most times, you will pull the bait out of their mouth.

While fishing for grouper, I like to fish with a lighter setup and try to catch snappers and grunts. This keeps everyone busy while waiting for a grouper bite. I like to use a rod holder at these times, it will never get excited and try to set the hook.

On a recent trip while bottom fishing, we caught some really big bull sharks and a lot of Spanish mackerel. Putting out a chum block will also help get the fish excited.

For the inshore fishermen, look for some bull redfish to move in from offshore. This time of year, is when the big ones come inshore for the spawn. You will need heavier gear to land them–the tackle you use for slot reds may be too light. Choosing 30-pound braid and 30-pound leader will help in landing these bruisers. Live pinfish, shrimp or cut baits should entice them into biting. Trout will also be more inside the flats with the waters getting cooler. Shrimp on a strike indicator can be a great offering–artificials will also work.

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