By JAY MASTRY
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 6, 2002
Schools of Spanish sardines have settled in the 40-foot range and added another dimension to offshore fishing.
Much of our live bait the past couple of months were the squirrelfish, pinfish and grunts we managed to hook and line. Springlike temperatures have drawn massive schools of the preferred sardines, which are easy to jiggle on gold hook rigs.
Though in winter groupers' meals may consist of dead bait, amberjack and mangrove snapper prefer theirs with a pulse. A well full of fresh-caught sardines ignited a feeding frenzy of AJs in 70 feet southwest of the Egmont shipping channel this weekend and was highlighted by Kenny Kleber's 52-pounder. When frisky baits were able to sneak past the ravenous amberjack and settle near the bottom, they quickly were devoured by limits of mangrove snapper up to 4 pounds.
Water temperatures near 70 degrees seem to have kingfish a bit confused. Sunday, while trolling deep diving plugs in search of new grouper grounds, Bryan Crisp landed a couple of kings in 50 feet and lost a couple others. Though we don't usually target them around here until late March and April, this year, who knows?
Though bait schools were easy to locate last week in calm seas, you'll likely have to locate them on your recorder this week. After an early cold front, bait will tend to gather on offshore wrecks and reefs.
- Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.