There is little doubt recent years have been exceptional for shallow-water gag grouper fishing.
Gags always have been shallow, but the biggest surprise has been the size of fish on near-shore and inshore reefs, wrecks and ledges. Many fish are keeper size, and anglers don't need to head far to catch them.
Capt. Glen Taylor knows this. He has nearly perfected trolling for gag grouper in Tampa Bay. On the July 1 opening day, he trolled up a limit of gag grouper in Tampa Bay before chumming up and catching a school of 18-inch mangrove snapper.
On July 2, he started fishing at 10 a.m. and was back at the dock by 11:30 a.m., with a limit of 30-inch gag grouper and a 28-inch red grouper to go with it. All of this done while fishing east of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
"All fish were caught trolling in Tampa Bay, east of the skyway," Taylor said. "Eighteen feet was the best bite. We used 5-ounce curly-tail grubs 8 inches long."
Capt. Taylor takes from past experience when targeting gag grouper. Most associate gags in the bay with the big drops on channel edges and old skyway rubble, while Taylor says they could be on the move and in the sand and smaller structures.
"If it has been calm, I look for small breaks and rock piles up to two miles away from the channel on flat, non-descriptive bottom. You can catch a lot of fish on sand when you figure out their movements."
Taylor continues, "It's similar to redfish on a flat; they use the same highway each time. These gags reuse the same highways as well, and you can crush them when you find them in these zones going from spot to spot."
While trolling, keep a keen eye on your depth finder and be ready to mark spots where you catch fish. Troll these areas again, and the same results can occur.
Trolling the bottom can be made easier with the use of planers and/or braided line. The smaller diameter of braided lines allows baits to travel deeper. The ideal strike zone for gag grouper is about 3 to 5 feet off the bottom.
To see how Capt. Glen Taylor does it first hand, give him a call at 727-742-2501.
Summer has provided a hot start for gag grouper fishing, and as we head toward fall this fishery will only get better.
"Come October, November and December, we normally catch 10 to 15 keepers per trip," Taylor said. "That's also when we find the giant gags in the bay."