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Snook, cobia step up to plate

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 5, 2002

Spring is here and fishing conditions are prime for a variety of inshore and offshore species. Along the North Suncoast, snook and cobia are the primary targets. Many guides have reported the best spring snook fishing in several years. Live scaled sardines are the bait of choice in shallow waters.

Baitfish are abundant over the grassflats from Palm Harbor to New Port Richey. If snook are your primary target, spend the time to locate a few extra-large baits. In areas of heavy fishing pressure, big snook often will ignore smaller baits but can't resist a jumbo whitebait drifting through their hideout.

Cobia also have moved into the shallows on their annual northerly migration. Numbers vary from day to day, but if you spend some time looking for large stingrays, chances are you will encounter a cobia following behind. The peak of the season is yet to come, so be sure to keep an eye open for big rays and the piggy-backing cobia as you run across the flats. Low tide is the best time to look because the lower water draws all the rays out of the mangroves and shallow creeks onto the open flats preferred by the cobia.

Most of the time, cobia will strike whatever you cast at them. For artificials, eel-like soft plastic baits are the local favorite. You may encounter a big cobia swimming behind a ray that will turn his nose up at the eel lure and most live baits. This is when it helps to have a few live blue crabs in the bait well. I have fooled monster cobia that refused all other offerings with a properly placed small live crab.

-- Ed Walker charters out of Palm Harbor. Call (727) 944-3474 or e-mail

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