© St. Petersburg Times, published April 12, 2002
With big-money tournaments scheduled for the next several weekends, kingfish will get top billing.
Justin Mastry's 40.85-pounder is the largest I've seen so far, but several smokers in the 30-pound class have been recorded.
While many of the kings have come from south of the Egmont shipping channel, improving weather conditions will open the gates and allow these giant cousins of the mackerel to settle in familiar haunts. Some have been landed at the Clearwater and Redington hard bottoms. Anglers at Redington Long Pier have hauled a few over the rails. Blind Pass produced a couple in the 30-pound range, and last weekend several "teenagers" were caught at Markers 5 and 6 in the shipping channel.
The "Short Jack," a large area of ledges and rocky bottom 3-5 miles south of the channel in 40 to 45 feet, has been fairly consistent. Farther south, off Anna Maria and Longboat Key, kings were found around bait pods. High winds and rough seas early in the week scattered those bunches, but they will regroup in better weather.
Sheepshead fishing has tapered off. But mangrove snapper have picked up the slack. With small whitebait now abundant on many of our flats, it is time to collect plenty of it and then work the rocky terrain along the edges of the Tampa Bay shipping channel.
Redfish have been cooperative and don't seem to mind the muddy conditions kicked up by recent winds. Anglers at Redington Long Pier have been wearing them out, and flats fishermen at Fort De Soto have been wrestling their fair share.
Snook and flounder have been caught sneaking around Redington, and trout have settled in the potholes around the south county as low tides in the mornings have flushed them off the flats.
(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)
WEDNESDAY: Tampa Bay Fly Fishing Club meeting, YMCA, Tampa Palms, 866-8682.