© St. Petersburg Times, published January 18, 2002
The best action on the grass flats has been during the late afternoon. The sun heats the water as it travels over the flat. Most of the fish have been on the downwind or down-current side. After a cool front, grass piles in 4 to 5 feet of water become the most productive.
As water temperatures rise, fish move closer to the edge of the flat. In the afternoon, most fish move onto the flat to feed for a short period. Trout are running in the 1- to 5-pound range. Small jigs and jerk baits worked close to the bottom will draw strikes on most days.
Snook are hard to find and even harder to catch. They like to sun themselves in the shallows of residential canals, but this is when you don't want to target them. The best time is when the tide is low and the sunning areas are too shallow to hold fish. Work the deepdrop-offs next to docks. You can't see the fish, but if you use a 3-inch, 1-ounce strip-tailed shad in black and clear or green with red stripes and drag it slowly across the bottom, you'll not only find some snook, but you'll catch some.
Inshore grouper action is red hot. Rock piles in lower Tampa Bay are holding good numbers of legal-size grouper. Trolling a large plug that has a big diving lip will work best in 15 to 20 feet of water. Tie the plug to a stout rod that has at least 50-pound test. Troll the area at 1200 to 1500 rpms during the slacking of the tide. Most rock bottoms can be found using a navigation chart.
Look for spots on the chart that read HRD. These are areas of hard bottom that the grouper like to hang over. A No. 3 planner is needed when working in the 30-foot range that is near the shipping channel. Cross the edge of the channel while staying in 26 to 34 feet of water.
The grouper offshore are hanging in 80 to 110 feet. Dead baits rule when the water's cold.
-- Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.
(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)
THURSDAY: Saltwater Fly Fisherman monthly meeting, Clearwater, 443-5000.
UPCOMING: 12th annual Johnny Kellar Inshore Fishing Tournament, Jan. 26, captain's meeting Thursday, Bay Pines Marina, St. Petersburg, Old Salt Fishing Club, benefits All Children's Hospital, 397-9835.
TODAY: Fly-tying, Bill Jackson's, 576-4169.
SATURDAY: Fly-casting, Bill Jackson's, 576-4169.
SATURDAY: Fly-casting, World Class Outfitters, (813) 968-3736.
SATURDAY: Fly-casting, Saltwater Fly Fisherman, Clearwater, 443-5000.
WEDNESDAY: Fly-casting, women only, Saltwater Fly Fisherman, Clearwater, 443-5000.
THURSDAY: Inshore fly-fishing with Pat Domico, West Marine, St. Petersburg, 343-1765.
TONIGHT: USF Sail Club meeting, Bayboro Campus, 821-4840.
SATURDAY: Safe-boating course, Clearwater, 462-6368.
SATURDAY-SUNDAY: S.E. Team Racing Championships, St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 822-3873.
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.
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.
SATURDAY: Sunset canoe/kayak trips, Hillsborough River, Oak Haven River Retreat, Tampa, rentals available, (813) 988-4580.
SATURDAY: Day hike, Hillsborough River State Park, 3 1/2-mile easy hike, Suncoast Sierra Club, 938-4093.
THURSDAY: Day hike, Kissimmee State Park, 6 miles, 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.