With the few days of cold and a couple more of the wind we had last week, I was fortunate enough to at least reschedule my trips, but stayed landlocked and did some much-needed, warmer Christmas shopping. I had that fortunate chance to have some clients who are locals or will be here for a few months, so we can be a little more picky and choosier for better weather days to make it a more enjoyable trip for everyone.

If and when you do get a break from the howling windy days, you could plan your day and go after the grouper. Tuesday, Dec. 31 is the last day of the 2019 season. The rest of this month, pending any nasty wind or cold fronts and freezing temps, will be productive times for these hard-pulling good eating fish.

One way is casting shallow 3 to 5 feet running plugs across nearshore rock piles. Or, chunking bait right near the edge of the said pile with a knocker rig.

Yet, trolling is one of the more deadly ways of locating and hooking up with the grouper, especially offshore in deeper depths. After a few hookups, if needed, you can go back to these marked spots where you’ve had success then anchor up precisely and usually get into a few more.

Naturally, if you have down riggers equipped on your vessel (which are simply devices utilized extensively and productively for controlled depth fishing), then good plugs are the magnum 7-1/2 inch and 9 inch Rapalas. Excellent and productive colors are firetiger, blue and white, blue and silver, orange and gold, and green mackerel.

If you don’t have down riggers in your arsenal and equipped on your vessel, don’t be despaired.

A lot of recreational offshore anglers, captains and myself employ and deploy big lip plugs such as the Mann’s Stretch plugs and big lipped Rapalas extensively, that have been on the market, with great results. And they all come in the same colors as the forementioned.

Just read the package and be sure to get the right plug for the right depth you’ll be targeting.

If you hook up with a grouper by trolling and go back later to anchor and bottom fish the same area, usually the worst that can happen is you’ll get into a mess of grunts that will be over and around that structure. Which, I’ve never heard anybody complain about eating any of them.

The reds will continue to suffice with cut mullet and fresh shrimp around the inside islands from mangrove point to long point. If the water continues to warm (which a friend said it got up to 68 degrees Monday) until the next good cold front the bigger trout will be in the same areas, but closer to holes and depressions off and between islands.

Capt. Rick Burns runs Reel Burns Charters out of Homosassa. He can be contacted at 352-201-6111 or visit his website at www.homosassafishingguide.com.

Prep Zone

Get updates and player profiles ahead of Friday's high school games, plus a recap Saturday with stories, photos, video Frequency: Seasonal Twice a week