By TOM TURKE
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 12, 2002
The southern piece of the Middle Grounds, about 80 nautical miles northwest of Tarpon Springs, has been producing excellent catches of amberjack, gag grouper and mangrove snapper.
March can be good for bottom fishing out there, but the seas need to be calm to enjoy the long ride and to help ensure a safe trip.
If you make the long run to one of the fishy ledges in the Middle Grounds, bring plenty of live bait for the amberjack and gag grouper. Most any jumbo-sized bait will do but I prefer pinfish, lizardfish and sand perch hooked through the lips with a 16/0 circle hook.
For mangrove snapper, a small pinfish or a spanish sardine hooked with a 5/0 Kahle seems to do the trick.
As a full moon approaches on March 28, the fishing will be at its peak. Plan to be out on one of the ledges during the window of four days before the full moon and three days after.
Anchoring and chumming with frozen blocks of ground fish and cut-up fresh spanish sardines can kick-start a bite into high gear.
There are many spots in the Middle Grounds to fish so seeing other boats is not a problem. As a common courtesy, stay at least a half-a-mile away. There are great spots on the published fishing and diving maps if you need a starting point.
-- Tom Turke charters The Mixed Bag out of St. Petersburg. Call (813) 854-5779.