© St. Petersburg Times, published June 14, 2002
Summer patterns have begun
Summer officially begins June 21, but we have been in summer fishing patterns for several weeks. Anglers 50-75 miles offshore report banner catches of tuna, wahoo and dolphin. Several wrecks such as the Yellowfin and the 28 Fathom are great places to start trolling.
Skirted ballyhoo, high-speed bubble-head lures and cedar plugs are popular baits. Anchoring and chumming with frozen chum blocks and pieces of sardines while deploying blue runners, Spanish sardines or cigar minnows will result in runs. Be prepared with high-capacity reels filled to the max.
Red grouper fishing has turned on in 90-110 feet. Target "Swiss cheese" bottoms: flat limestone with numerous holes, tunnels and crevices that juts out of the sand. The larger fish are at the perimeters of these areas with smaller fish in the interior.
A good bottom machine that readily discriminates between sand and rock is a must. Spanish sardines, live and frozen, with squid are the commonly used baits. Pinfish work well, but it is hard to beat "grouper candy," which is a live squirrelfish. Yellowtail snapper are in these same areas and it takes a 1/0 or 2/0 short-shanked hook with no more than 20-pound test leader to catch them. Because of their small stomach capacity and the fact they fill up quickly, fish for them with at least one rod when beginning a grouper spot.
No one told the kingfish they are supposed to be in the northern gulf. Good catches are being made near all the wrecks and from the Whistler in to markers 5 and 6. We have caught at least one large kingfish every day by putting out a dead Spanish sardine on a stinger rig while bottom fishing. Spanish mackerel are everywhere with the artificial reefs holding quality fish. Every range marker in Tampa Bay has become home to mackerel and the occasional cobia.
Inshore the silver king (tarpon) reigns supreme at the Sunshine Skyway bridge and the beaches. Tarpon have been larger than for the past several years. Snook and large trout have moved to their summer residences in the swash channels near the beach and can be seen and sight-fished at sunrise and sunset for the best results.
- Capt. Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at (727) 397-8815 or by e-mail at Luckytoo2@aol.com.