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There's a lot of activity in the water

By RICK FRAZIER
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 7, 2002

Grouper action is great about 30 miles into the 120-foot range. Big gag and red grouper are being caught with considerable consistency using big live baits like pinfish, squirrel fish, shad and threadfin hearing. Cut sardines and squid will draw the normal "barely legal" bites, but for the bruisers the bigger the bait the better.

Mangrove snapper also are biting, but they're in the 100-foot depth. On your way out stop at one of the pass channel markers and net a well full of whitebait for these aggressive fighters. With the water extremely clear, fluorocarbon leader is the way to go. Use the lightest leader possible for more strikes.

Closer to shore, many of the artificial reefs are holding Spanish mackerel and they're also chewing heavily on whitebait. Anchor up-current and set out a couple of chum blocks to help draw the feisty speedsters to you. Twenty- to 30-pound monofilament leader with long shank No. 1 hooks works and will produce more bites than steel leader.

Don't be surprised if all the activity from the chum and macks brings in cobia as well. Have a 20-pound class rod rigged and ready to go when you see these brown bombers. Remember these mean-spirited critters need to be at least 33 inches to the fork of the tail to be legal.

Can't forget about silver king either. They're plentiful, but getting them to bite might be a challenge if they're pressured. Work the beaches just after sunrise while looking for pods of rolling fish. Presentation is everything so be positioned well in front of the schools and let them come to you. Free-lined threadfins or fresh dead shad on the bottom will be hard for them to pass up.

Small blacktip sharks are abundant if you're looking for great rod-bending action inshore. High diving pelicans trying to get shad will tell you where the sharks are. Steel leader is a better idea for landing blacktips. Fast-moving crankbaits will draw attention as will cut shad and pinfish under a float.

Check out area piers during the day for cobia, Spanish mackerel and flounder. Cork the whitebait for the macks and cobia. For the flounder, use a small split-shot about a foot above your whitebait to get it to the bottom where the flatties are hanging. During the darker hours, red drum and speckled trout are in the light shadows and they're not shy about inhaling your free-lined whitebait.

Black sea bass and Key West grunts are the norm for the half-day party boats. The overnight trips are better if you're looking for grouper or snapper.

-- Capt. Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters in St. Petersburg, (727) 510-4376 or email captrick@luckydawg.com.

Outdoor calendar

Fishing

(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)

SATURDAY: Tarpon tournament No. 5, Miller's Marina, Tarpon Club, (941) 964-8080. SATURDAY: Grouper tournament, Billy's Stonecrab, Tierra Verde, register 8 tonight, 542-3900. SATURDAY:Tenth annual Honeymoon Island State Park catch-and-release snook tournament, 469-5942. UPCOMING: Palm Beach trolling tournament, June 13-15, Golden Triangle Fishing Club, (813) 935-3293.

Seminars

SUNDAY: Beginners fishing course, Vinbob's Bait and Tackle Depot, 320-8544. THURSDAY: How to Catch Bait, West Marine, St. Petersburg, 327-0072

Boating

Etc

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