© St. Petersburg Times, published February 8, 2002
Water temperatures are falling, assuring us it is only February.
Grouper digging will improve a few days after sea conditions calm after cold fronts. Each weather system shuffles fish populations great distances before they settle on new locations. This will replenish many of the rock piles picked clean in the recent stretch of warm weather. Even more shallow depths, as close in as 20 feet, should start to produce.
Before this most recent cold weather hit, acres of Spanish sardines were working toward shore, giving many anglers a false sense of spring. A few early kingfish were found close to the sardines. Expect to find bait schools in about 60 feet.
The sardines' life cycle consists of migrating inshore in warming trends and offshore as things cool. Along the way predators relentlessly attack the baitfish. Avid grouper diggers love this chance to load up the live wells and snag a few big grouper.
Amberjack fishing should change for the better. Undersized fish have been common, but the bruisers have been few and far between. Recent weather should drag more large fish close to shore.
Mixed in with the amberjack have been banded rudderfish. They don't grow as big as amberjack but are more aggressive. The key is to work a jig in an erratic manner: Reeling the jig up from the bottom quickly puts the jacks in a feeding frenzy.
You can find jacks over most wrecks and artificial reefs.
-- Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 595-3276, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)
LOOKING AHEAD: Easter Kingfish Classic, March 29-30, Tierra Verde, (727) 542-3900. LOOKING AHEAD: Spring Kingfish Classic, April 4-6, Tierra Verde, (727) 542-3900. LOOKING AHEAD: Suncoast Kingfish Classic, April 11-14, Perico Harbor Marina, Treasure Island Charities, 363-0071.
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.
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