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Think big this weekend

By ED WALKER
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 17, 2002

It's time to break out the heavy tackle. The opportunity to catch a really big fish does not get much better than now. Whether you are headed offshore to deep water or staying in the bay, don't be surprised if something extra large ends up on the end of your line this weekend.

The biggest fish you might encounter is a tarpon. The season is in full swing, and reports of monster fish have been coming in from Sarasota to Weeki Wachee. Schools have been sighted moving south along the beaches early in the morning, and bridges such as the Sunshine Skyway and Gandy also are holding good numbers.

Research has shown that almost all tarpon more than 100 pounds are females. Up to 15 percent of their body weight might be increased because of the eggs they are carrying before spawning, which is believed to take place well offshore in early June. This means the big tarpon are even bigger now.

So what do you need to land the tarpon of a lifetime? For casting live baits or artificials, try a heavy-duty spinning rod loaded with ultra-strength, super-braid lines. This new line technology allows you to use line as strong as 60- to 80-pound test on a spinning reel and still have the capacity to slow a very long run. Bottom baiters and pier fishermen still prefer an 8-foot fiberglass rod and a 4/0 reel filled with 50-pound mono.

When releasing a tarpon, do not pull it into the boat or lift it from the water. This can damage the internal organs and eggs and might even kill the fish.

If there is such a thing as blackfin tuna season, now is the time. Some are caught in deep water all year, but this is the peak of the shrimp run, and where shrimp boats go, big tuna follow. Good blackfin catches have been reported from Egmont north, and they have been outstanding in an area known to the shrimpers as "the graveyard" about 34 miles west of Anclote Key off Tarpon Springs. Tuna prefer water at least 75 feet deep, and the deeper you go, the better. Keep in mind that the earlier you get there, the better your chances.

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

Outdoors calendar

Fishing

(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)

SATURDAY: Tarpon tournament, Millers Marina, the Tarpon Club, (941) 964-8080. SATURDAY: Spanish mackerel tournament, Billy's Stone Crab, Tierra Verde, register 6 tonight, 542-3900. SATURDAY-SUNDAY: SouthShore fishing tournament with Nautical Flea Market and Boat Show, Bahia Beach Marina, Ruskin, (813) 645-3808. TUESDAY: Spring Hill Fishing Club meeting, Senior Citizens Hall, Susan Drive, Weeki Wachee, (352) 592-8688.

Seminars

SUNDAY: Beginners fishing course, Vinbob's Bait and Tackle Depot, 320-8544. WEDNESDAY: Trolling with the Golden Triangle Fishing Club, Day's Inn, Tampa, (813) 935-3293. WEDNESDAY: Fishing seminar, Bill Currie Ford, Tampa, (813) 872-5555. THURSDAY: Trout and reds, Wal-Mart, Tyrone Boulevard, St. Petersburg, 347-1188

Etc.

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