Know the Waters

By Capt. Larry Conley

If you’re new to this area, fishing is very technical and knowing water depths for a certain fish can help you. Grouper 70/80/90/120 feet, it changes with water temps and time of year; red snapper??? 140! feet or more! Lane snapper are great table fare and can be found in 40/50 feet or deeper. This year has had more and bigger lanes than I have seen in 8 years. Look for hard bottom areas, learn to use your sonar.  If it works as you’re running it helps a lot, watch it continuously as you get past 40 feet of water.  I’m not going give out a bunch of numbers, but if you watch the sonar you’re going to find a lot of lane snapper in 45-65 feet of water. As you’re running out, watch for ledges that are rocky as they will hold mangrove snapper, gag grouper, and white grunts. If I spot a new area as I’m running, I’ll mark it on the gps and put the letters RO, I’ll know it as a run over.  If it looks really good, like a bunch of lanes, I sometimes write WOW, that way I know to look for lanes on a different trip.  As I get in 40 feet or so, I’ll watch the radar and sonar more than out in front of the boat and that’s how I’ve found many many new spots.  Maybe not fishing them for months out, but I’ll delete the ones that aren’t any good.

Tammy Soma-Clark and Jeremy Soma limiting out on grouper

As for bait, squid, thread fin, and herring are the best and cheapest, live shrimp work but it’s a one bite and the shrimp is gone, which adds up. Chum with cut thread fin; cut them small as you don’t want to fill the fish up, just a taste to get them interested. A few of the best spots I’ve found were potholes in 74 feet of water. I found them by going slow from one spot to another, watching the bottom machine.  I’ve seen it drop down two feet then in about 20 yards it came back up two feet-pothole.  I’ve seen what looked like one fish, so I decided one more red grouper was more than what I have now, so I anchored on it and it took a few minutes, but the bottom came alive and we got 15 red grouper keepers!!  That pothole was one of the best places I ever found. So, I continued looking for places that seemed the same and found about 12-15 “potholes”.  Some only seven keepers, eleven keepers, or ten, twelve or five.  I keep records of the keepers for each spot on the GPS and I can’t tell you enough of how important records are. When it gets tough, go to them high numbered spots!  Capt. Larry

Capt. Larry Conley and Reel-Ality Sportfishing are located at 18400 San Carlos Blvd, Ft. Myers Beach, FL 33931 and offers inshore, offshore, and deep-sea fishing to catch that fish of a lifetime!  The Reel-Ality offers 4, 6, & 8 hour trips as wells as tournament charters and is licensed to carry up to 6 pasengers.  If you would like to book a trip, call (239) 980-3880, visit our website, and FB at

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