Just grunts

We tried most of public artificial reefs west and just north of Anclote Keys.  Maybe 15 sites over three trips.  Not much activity on the screen anywhere and virtually all we caught were Key West Grunts.  For bait we used frozen cigar minnows, and then live grunts on a fly line and half-way down.  No kings or other large fish.  No hits on the live bait at all.  We also tried trolling with a spoon and plugs, but no hits.

We are transplants from the Panhandle.  I thought much of fishing would be similar, but I guess not.  The places we tried were not very deep, 37' at the most.  Maybe we need to go deeper, but I cannot find any listed sites other than what we have, which are not deep near Tarpon Springs. 

Replies

  • Reel TealReel Teal Posts: 2,674 Captain
    I dont like using frozen bait for bottom fishing unless I want red snapper, grunts and seabass. Try to get on some non public numbers and some fresh cut bait and see what happens. Dont be afraid to adjust your leader length or drop down in lb test. The fishing is on fire right now out there. 
  • trs912trs912 Posts: 26 Greenhorn
    Yeah, my experience so far has been similar.  Anything less than 70' and it seems all I catch are grunts and undersized red grouper.  I've got quite a few ledges marked now that I need to explore, though.

    I'm sort of spoiled making the longer runs but that gas bill is killing me.  Hopefully people will chime on this thread.  

    For live bait, I've tried freelining grunts and have never once had anything hit them.  Plus, they die pretty easily.  Try to sabiki up something else maybe.
  • NitzeyNitzey Posts: 80 Greenhorn
    We did use cut bait as well as frozen cigar minnows.  The last time we got bait from Walmart and it was quickly very soft and as cut bait, it fell off the hook.  I tend to use light leaders, 45 or 65 lb fluorocarbon unless targeting grouper.  We also used sabikis, but still only grunts.  In the Panhandle we often used a similar grunt for bait with excellent results, for red snapper, amberjacks, cobia, and kings.  The common name was ruby red lips; tomtate is another name.  They tended a bit smaller than key west grunts.  Again in the Panhandle, this time of year cigar minnows would be thick in the passes, just outside the passes, and in schools off the beach.  Our favorite bait, a live cigar minnow. 
  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski GrovelandPosts: 8,181 Admiral
    45 or 65lb is not light in these parts, 15lb is light.   
    People use statistics the way a drunk uses a street light, for support rather than illumination.
  • Reel TealReel Teal Posts: 2,674 Captain
    edited July 10 #6
    I use 40lb fluoro for muttons up to to 20lbs and groupers to 15lb. Just food for thought. For snappers offshore 30 lb if they aren't over 10lbs. I have rarely ever gone above 60 for anything unless it's a trolling leader. Idk what the rig is your using, but use the smalles weight possible, not whatever gets tied on first.

    Tomtates are a good bait, but sometimes the white fishes are not preferred and something with more oil to it will do the trick. I have personally moved away from using grunts, pins and tomtates for bait. Unless you're going back to the panhandle, you're gonna have to adapt it looks like bc seasonally things will be a tad different.

    Dont be afraid to try something new if you aren't getting the intended results. Good luck.



  • conchydongconchydong Pompano BeachPosts: 3,545 Captain
    Nothing wrong with a mess of Grunts for the fryin' pan with a pot of grits.

    “Everyone behaves badly--given the chance.”
    ― Ernest Hemingway

  • NitzeyNitzey Posts: 80 Greenhorn
    I understand grunts are excellent eating.  As a kid in NY state, my father would take us fishing for pan fish smaller than these grunts.  However, my wife says if that is all we are going to catch here, we are going to give up fishing.  Fishing in salt water that is.  She built us a lake house in Alabama where there is decent fresh water fishing.  I don't like that fishing however, but she has a point.  Crappie taste mighty good.  Gas bill is good; we use a canoe.

    Okay, will try downsizing leaders.  Amazing how I keep learning new things about fishing.

    I have been to the pier at Fort De Soto, and you can catch blue runners or thread-fin herring virtually on every cast with a sabiki, but I have not caught any near Tarpon Springs.

    Speaking of oily fish, menhaden were often ubiquitous in The Panhandle.  One throw of the cast net might yield hundreds of superb bait.  Last year, however, they were scarce. 
  • tampaspicertampaspicer Posts: 202 Deckhand
    Lots of hard bottom and ledges W and NW of Anclote. 20-30 mile range is best. Pigfish and live cigar minnows were always my favorite. It might take you more trips but if you watch you bottom finder you'll find some spots in no time. You could also try drift fishing several areas to find some new spots. 
  • trs912trs912 Posts: 26 Greenhorn
    I'm probably spoiled from cleaning snapper, but I tried cleaning grunts once and there didn't seem to be much meat on them thar bones.  I haven't kept any since.

    Don't give up!  I have days like you said, but then I'll hook a big gag or get into some snapper.  
  • Soda PopinskiSoda Popinski GrovelandPosts: 8,181 Admiral
    trs912 said:
    I'm probably spoiled from cleaning snapper, but I tried cleaning grunts once and there didn't seem to be much meat on them thar bones.  I haven't kept any since.

    Don't give up!  I have days like you said, but then I'll hook a big gag or get into some snapper.  
    I have found Grunts to have as much meat on them as a mango of the same size.  And grunts/grits are hard to pass up any time of day.   
    People use statistics the way a drunk uses a street light, for support rather than illumination.
  • szarmanszarman Posts: 15 Greenhorn
    I fish that area a lot.  The artificial/public numbers are hit and miss this time of year.  The water is clear and warm most the time in that depth.  Which means it is a smaller window when they will eat, and you have to downsize your tackle.  If you are catching grunts you are typically on the right bottom.  Fish the same spots October-December and you can probably string together a really good day because the grouper come in closer to shore, and are much more active.  You really want to find some ledges and hard bottom areas in 40ft or more right now to have a better chance at getting into the grouper.  They seem to be a little more active deeper.  That doesn't mean they aren't in shallow. I know they are because I dove one of my spots in 30ft and they were everywhere but they don't bite as much right now unless you hit the tide perfect when they are eating (which is mostly just luck, I like trying a moderate incoming tide).  If you want to keep hitting the public stuff, bring a chum bag, and some shrimp.  Chum for about 15 minutes, and drop shrimp or small pinfish on a jig head, or 1/0 hook with medium split shot 5ft up and you can get into the mangrove snapper.  Be sure to use about 10ft of 20lb fluoro leader.  

    For bait, i just get frozen threadfin / squid, and will catch med to large pinfish on the flats with squid and small gold hook.  Never have really needed any other baits offshore, and normally do pretty well every trip.  I fish the threadfins and squid for about 10-15 minutes on a spot catching as many grunts as I can (it gets the grouper interested and they come over to check out what is going on).  Then once everyone catches 2-3 grunts on threadfins/squid toss down a big pinfish and you will know if there are grouper down there.
  • FusionZ06FusionZ06 Posts: 925 Officer
    It's summer. You're going to need to fish deeper for really quality fish. 

    Further, plenty of mangos on public numbers but you'll need to run 15lb leader about 25-30' and chum your brains out. I like cut pilchards for them. If there is no current then you'll need to move. 
  • BottomFedBottomFed Posts: 15 Greenhorn

    West of Anclote need to go to ~40' for bottom fish and do what others have said on the thread.  They're there though.  I use my Scout 145/Yamaha 50 stripped down with hydrofoil to get 20+ miles out and back on <10 gallons of gas.  Sea state is a big factor.  On the 8th it was calm in the afternoon.  The boat got over 6.2 mpg and I landed a 28" grouper.

    You have to dedicate a few trips to learn the bottom, mark spots holding fish, etc.  There's a learning curve WC FL fishing.  The bait schools are out there and the larger fish were working on them last Sunday 15+ miles out.  Probably Spanish Mackerel but I did not land one.  Already had the grouper in the box.  The bait schools I saw were blue runner.  When they move inshore later this summer the Spanish will be on their tails and the time and fuel to get to the Spanish will be much less.  But the grouper will mostly be at 40+ until the water cools down.



  • grey2112grey2112 Posts: 114 Deckhand

    Nitzey, email me - [email protected] - as a fellow Panhandle resident (born and raised in Pensacola) I understand the frustrations.  I can put together some numbers for you that get you away from the artificial reefs - I never fish or dive them due to how hard hit they are and how wary the fish can be.  Ledges and hard bottom are the key in this area, especially this time of year.  And distance and depth, too.  But my wife likes staying within sight of land, so a change in tactics, areas, and depth have meant we have had to find other spots to try and get something more than grunt.  I can't promise success, but can at least point you in some different directions.


  • CaptainBlyCaptainBly Posts: 1,872 Captain
    I CHUM LIKE CRAZY and pretty much use long 20 lb flouro leaders.  Almost exclusively now regardless of depth.  Lose some of the big boys but lot of fun.
    In Loving Memory of James Zielske, January 19, 1957-July 5, 2013
  • andrewthe1andrewthe1 Posts: 574 Officer
    edited July 13 #17
    szarman said:
    I fish that area a lot.  The artificial/public numbers are hit and miss this time of year.  The water is clear and warm most the time in that depth.  Which means it is a smaller window when they will eat, and you have to downsize your tackle.  If you are catching grunts you are typically on the right bottom.  Fish the same spots October-December and you can probably string together a really good day because the grouper come in closer to shore, and are much more active.  You really want to find some ledges and hard bottom areas in 40ft or more right now to have a better chance at getting into the grouper.  They seem to be a little more active deeper.  That doesn't mean they aren't in shallow. I know they are because I dove one of my spots in 30ft and they were everywhere but they don't bite as much right now unless you hit the tide perfect when they are eating (which is mostly just luck, I like trying a moderate incoming tide).  If you want to keep hitting the public stuff, bring a chum bag, and some shrimp.  Chum for about 15 minutes, and drop shrimp or small pinfish on a jig head, or 1/0 hook with medium split shot 5ft up and you can get into the mangrove snapper.  Be sure to use about 10ft of 20lb fluoro leader.  

    For bait, i just get frozen threadfin / squid, and will catch med to large pinfish on the flats with squid and small gold hook.  Never have really needed any other baits offshore, and normally do pretty well every trip.  I fish the threadfins and squid for about 10-15 minutes on a spot catching as many grunts as I can (it gets the grouper interested and they come over to check out what is going on).  Then once everyone catches 2-3 grunts on threadfins/squid toss down a big pinfish and you will know if there are grouper down there.
    great advise here^^

    also not all public numbers are equal and change day to day hour to hour.

    in my area there are 2 barges and two tugs in like 2 miles........we have caught cobia mangroves and more on all but never on the same day....one will always be better than the other depending on where the bait is.
    we need more internet money
  • DropTheHammerDropTheHammer East CoastPosts: 348 Deckhand
    The trick to fishing a grunt is to stomp on there heads!
    All the juices get released and then they get bit better
    or you can just chunk them. But when you do the first
    one they also release A distress signal that triggers
    A bite! ;)

    We all new what we were doing until DropTheHammer showed up.
  • NitzeyNitzey Posts: 80 Greenhorn
    I think we got the hang of it.


  • NitzeyNitzey Posts: 80 Greenhorn
    Okay,  I am just kidding.  Those fish were caught by people at our marina; not by us.  
  • tampaspicertampaspicer Posts: 202 Deckhand
    How did you do?

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