© St. Petersburg Times, published January 4, 2002
Talk about bringing in the new year with a blast. A stubborn series of cold fronts has had a crippling effect, especially for those attempting to go offshore.
Coupled with the full-moon phase from last weekend, daytime grouper digging suffered a setback during the week. Those conditions will improve when the weather does. Scattered catches have been reported in waters as shallow as 45 feet, but most successful trips have been from 85 feet and beyond. Wrecks, springs and ledges in 110 to 120 feet seemed most productive before the adverse weather and will remain a good bet when seas calm.
Much of our time this week was spent in the protected waters of Tampa Bay. The leeward side of Fort De Soto offered protection Tuesday as we worked the rocky edges of the ships channel at the mouth of the bay. Areas affected by the Red Tide not too long ago have shown signs of recovery. Though we were only able to keep a couple of the 30-some grouper we caught, the amount of juveniles is a positive sign for the future.
The bay side of the Sunshine Skyway bridge was more productive. Grouper were light, but sheepshead, mangrove snapper and Key West grunts made up for it. Jiggling gold-hook rigs near the Skyway produced some of our bigger baits. We cast-netted smaller stuff near the Bay Pier at Fort De Soto. Thankfully, shrimp have been available at most bait shops and well worth the investment.
When planning offshore trips, be sure to have enough boat under you to get the job done. Accidents do happen, but some may be avoided. Don't risk taking chances on those "iffy" days. With all the weather information available, there are few excuses.
-- Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.
(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)
SUNDAY: Tampa Pro Bass Spring Tournament Series, Lake Istokpoga, first tournament of the 2002 series, 789-0525. MONDAY: West Coast Fly Fishing Club monthly meeting, St. Thomas Aquinas Church, New Port Richey, 856-8116. MONDAY: Brandon Bass Bandits monthly meeting, Oakfield Lanes, Brandon, (813) 741-1378. TUESDAY: Old Salt Fishing Club monthly meeting, American Legion Hall, Madeira Beach, with guest speaker Ray Markham, 328-7699.
SATURDAY: Fly-casting, World Class Outfitters, (813) 968-3736
SATURDAY: Fly-casting, Saltwater Fly Fisherman, Clearwater, 443-5000.
TUESDAY: Winter Time Near and Offshore Grouper and Snapper Diggin' with Larry McGuire, Boater's World, De Soto Mall, Bradenton, (941) 747-8339. WEDNESDAY: Fly-casting, women only, Saltwater Fly Fisherman, Clearwater, 443-5000.
WEDNESDAY: Recreational fishing with Dave Zalewski, Dixie Hollins High School, St. Petersburg, eight-week course, 397-8815.
MONDAY: Safe-boating course, Clearwater Sail and Power Squadron Building, Clearwater, course runs Monday and Wednesday, 441-8775. TUESDAY: Safe-boating course, St. Petersburg, 898-8774. WEDNESDAY: Boating skills and seamanship course, Tampa, (813) 835-4118. THURSDAY: Safe-boating course, Madeira Beach, 587-7873. THURSDAY: Safe-boating course, St. Pete Beach, 867-3088. UPCOMING: Boating safety and seamanship course, Jan. 16, Harbormaster's Office, second floor, Dunedin Marina, 785-7657
DAILY: Boyd Hill Nature Park tram tour, 893-7326. SATURDAY: Guided hike, Brooker Creek Preserve; 943-4003. SATURDAY: Weedon Island Preserve guided walk, 3 miles, reservations required, 217-7208. MONDAY: Eagle watch program, Moccasin Nature Park, Clearwater, Clearwater Audubon Society, 771-7385. MONDAY-TUESDAY: Appalachian Trail through-hike two-day clinic, Bill Jackson's, camping department, 576-4169. TUESDAY: Natural History Speaker Series, Boyd Hill Nature Park, St. Petersburg, topic: ecology and life history of pocket gophers, 893-7326. WEDNESDAY: Dolphins on the gulf education course, Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, must register by Tuesday, (941) 388-4441. -- Send information to Outdoors, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. All items must be typed and arrive 10 days before the event. Include event name, time, address and phone number