© St. Petersburg Times, published March 1, 2002
The cold temperatures and high winds that arrived with a cold front on Wednesday put a damper on what had been developing into a string of great fishing days inshore and offshore.
Grouper fishing for gags and reds was getting better daily as boats were able to locate the depths and areas where action was heaviest. Gag grouper seem to have vacated the wintertime hot spots in 18-25 feet of water and returned to the 60- to 70-foot ledges, especially in the large rocky area 270 degrees west of John's Pass referred to as the "Little Middle Grounds."
Taking the time to do some research by donning scuba gear and looking around in 60 feet of water revealed a few red grouper, gags of all sizes, triggerfish, mangrove snapper and hogfish from the size of one's hand to 5 pounds. Visibility was at least 50 feet because of the absence of plankton and algae caused by cold water temperatures. Red grouper and a couple varieties of snapper began to bite well in depths more than 90 feet.
Spanish mackerel were spotted feeding on schools of bait near the Treasure Island artificial reef and should continue to be there after this front blows through. The traditional start of the spring kingfish run is St. Patrick's Day (March 17). Now is the time to check tackle, respool reels, inventory equipment and get ready to troll.
The best bet inshore has been sheepshead at the bridges and pilings near any entrance to the gulf. They are feeding heavily on barnacles, small crabs, pieces of shrimp and sand fleas.
One of the best baits for sheepshead is parchment worms, who live in tubes that look like paper. They can be found washed up on the gulf beaches after a strong west wind. They need to be gathered early in the morning before the sun has a chance to kill the worm and start baking it. Not every tube will contain a worm, but it will not take long to gather a good supply.
-- Capt. Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at (727) 397-8815 or by e-mail at Luckytoo2@aol.com.
(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)
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: Port Hudson Fishing Club monthly meeting, Port Hudson Marina, 869-8190.
SATURDAY: Fly-casting, World Class Outfitters, (813) 968-3736
SATURDAY: Fly-casting, Saltwater Fly Fisherman, Clearwater, 443-5000.
TUESDAY: Structure Fishing with Mike Heistand, Boater's World, De Soto Mall, Bradenton, (941) 747-8339. WEDNESDAY: Fly-casting, women only, Saltwater Fly Fisherman, Clearwater, 443-5000. WEDNESDAY: Tournament Kingfishing with John Smith, Minnows and Monsters Tackle, Tampa, (813) 835-1512. THURSDAY: Tarpon fishing with Mike Otto, West Marine, St. Petersburg, 343-1765.
SATURDAY: Safe Boating Course, Clearwater, 462-6368
SATURDAY-SUNDAY: Florida State Opti Championships, St. Petersburg Sailing Center, 822-3113. SUNDAY-MARCH 9: Thistle race, St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 822-3873. MONDAY: Safe Boating Course, Clearwater Sail and Power Squadron Building, Clearwater, 441-8775. MONDAY: Safe Boating Class, St. Petersburg Sail and Power Squadron, Sail Center, Demens Landing, 527-3117. TUESDAY: Boat Smart Course, Apollo Beach Sail and Power Squadron, East Bay High School, Gibsonton, runs for 4 weeks, (813) 645-5168 or (813) 684-5063. TUESDAY: Hudson Beach Yacht Club monthly meeting, Hudson Senior Center, Hudson, 868-7037 or 372-7103. TUESDAY: Safe-boating course, St. Petersburg, 898-8774 or 823-3753. 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.