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Warmer water keeps grouper eating offshore

By DAVE MISTRETTA
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 11, 2002

Fishing between cold fronts has been the key to offshore success. Frigid water temperatures close to the beach have forced us 20-30 miles out to find the more tolerable temperature of 70.

You will find red grouper around bait stacks settled close to bottom. A depth of 90 feet has been magical. Some of the reds have weighed 20 pounds.

Each bait school seems to hold a few grouper, making it necessary to stop at numerous places. Eventually you'll hit the jackpot. Frozen sardines are the top choice for bottom baits.

Don't be surprised to find kingfish, blackfin tuna, bonito and sharks in the same areas. Cigar minnows and Spanish sardines can be jigged up.

You can pretty much count on amberjack around any local wreck or spring. Blue runners are ideal when slow-trolled nearby. Set the downriggers as close to the bottom structure as possible. A bonus is the few gag grouper dragged to the surface while trolling.

If you are unable to travel far offshore, you'll have to be patient. A fish's metabolism slows in cold water, and the fish sometimes go days without food.

Impervious to our weather are redfish, sheepshead and speckled trout. A bucket of live shrimp produces great action around the passes, jetties and bridges. The incoming tide is the most productive for these inshore fish.

Speckled trout can be found at any structure near shore. In cold water they congregate in large schools, and once located it is common to catch 50-100 in a day. The gulf trout are larger than bay trout, ranging 2-5 pounds. Commonly called yellowmouths, they will attack a small jig, juvenile pinfish or shrimp. -- Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 595-3276, or e-mail sales@jawstoo.com.

Fishing

(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)

TUESDAY: Spring Hill Fishing Club meeting, Senior Citizens Hall, Susan Drive, Weeki Wachee, (352) 592-8688.

WEDNESDAY: Tampa Bay Fly Fishing Club meeting, Tampa Palms, 866-8682.

Seminars

SATURDAY: Fly-casting, Bill Jackson's, 576-4169.

SATURDAY: Fly-casting, World Class Outfitters, (813) 968-3736.

SATURDAY: Fly-casting, Saltwater Fly Fisherman, 443-5000.

WEDNESDAY: Grouper fishing with Jay Ruilova, Minnows and Monsters Tackle, (813) 835-1512.

WEDNESDAY: Winter grouper tactics with Bob Blomberg, Holy Mackerel Tackle, 547-9889.

FRIDAY: Fly-tying, Bill Jackson's, 576-4169.

Boating

TONIGHT: USF Sail Club meeting, Bayboro Campus, 821-4840.

SATURDAY: Safe-boating course, Clearwater, 462-6368.

MONDAY: Safe-boating course, Clearwater Sail and Power Squadron building, course runs Monday and

Wednesday, 441-8775.

WEDNESDAY: Boating skills and seamanship course, Tampa, (813) 835-4118

WEDNESDAY: Safe-boating and seamanship course, Harbormaster's Office, second floor, Dunedin Marina, 785-7657.

THURSDAY: Safe-boating course, Madeira Beach, 587-7873.

THURSDAY: Safe-boating course, St. Pete Beach, 867-3088.

UPCOMING: S.E. Team Racing Championship, Jan. 19-20, St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 822-3873.

Etc.

HUNTING REGULATIONS: Fall turkey season closes Sunday in the NW zone.

TODAY-SUNDAY: Extended field trip, Amelia Island and Fort Clinch, space is limited, must preregister, Clearwater Audubon Society, 712-1770.

SATURDAY: Guided hike, Brooker Creek Preserve; 943-4003.

SATURDAY: Weedon Island Preserve guided walk, 3 miles, reservations required, 217-7208.

SUNDAY: Exercise walk, Lettuce Lake Park, Florida Trail Association, (813) 899-0666 or (813) 920-0702.

-- 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.

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