© St. Petersburg Times, published June 28, 2002
The lower parts of Tampa Bay are getting more boat traffic, making fishing more difficult. Fish that hang in schools over the shallow grass flats become spooky. The sound of boat engines and the vibration of trolling motors keep the fish in a defensive mood. Redfish move constantly, snook get deep in the mangroves and larger trout hide in thick grass.
The best action has been over the grass piles that are off the edge of the flats. Working jigs where the grass meets sand produced nice trout, blue fish, small grouper, mackerel and ladyfish. Polarized glasses are needed to see the faint outline of the dark spots. Work the area when the tide is moving. When you find a good spot, move upwind and drift the area again.
Mackerel and kingfish can be found over the artificial reefs. Using the baits that hang around the reef will increase the action. Anchor and put out a chum block and a flat line for a possible cobia. To find a reef holding mangrove snapper schools, give the spot a quick free-dive. This also will help locate sheepshead schools. When found, chum the spot with chopped shrimp for a few minutes. Then free-line a piece of shrimp back to the school. When your line starts moving, reel until the rod tip bends before setting the hook.
The grass flats will never return to the quiet days of the past. We all need to give each other a little room when passing a boat or wader. Remember, fish will spook if you pass within 200 yards.
The swash channels along the beach are holding good numbers of snook for catch-and-release action. The males are moving away from the females and like to hang a few feet off the beach. They are easier to catch than the big ones if the boat traffic gets heavy. Casting small white bait on light tackle works the best. It's also your best chance on catching a few on a fly rod. They are easy to see when the sun is high and the waters calm.
Anchor 20 feet off the beach and wait for the snook to swim by. The big females roam alone or stack up in a brown-colored cloud. Pinfish and threadfins have drawn the most strikes. Pinfish stay close to the bottom and have the color beach fish seem to like. Threadfins move slower than scaled sardines, making it easier for snook to chase down.
-- Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.
(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted
TODAY-SUNDAY: First Annual Tarpon Springs Spearfish-Photo Tournament, Captain Jack's, Tarpon Springs, 934-6474.
SATURDAY: Tarpon Tournament #8, Miller's Marina, Tarpon Club, (941) 964-8080.
MONDAY: West Coast Fly Fishing Club meeting, St. Thomas Aquinas Church, New Port Richey, 856-8116.
MONDAY: Brandon Bass Bandits meeting, Oakfield Lanes, Brandon, (813) 741-1378.
TUESDAY: Port Hudson Fishing Club meeting, Port Hudson Marina, 869-8190.
TUESDAY: Hurricane Pass Anglers Club meeting, Homeport Marina, Ozona, 372-8700.
THURSDAY: Safe-boating, Madeira Beach, 587-7873
THURSDAY: Safe-boating, St. Pete Beach, 867-3088.
DAILY: Tram tour, Boyd Hill Nature Park, 893-7326.
SATURDAY: Guided hike, Brooker Creek Preserve; 943-4003.
SATURDAY: Guided Walk, Weedon Island Preserve, 217-7208.
SATURDAY: Birding 101, Moccasin Lake Park, Clearwater Audubon Society, 789-4603 or 538-8688.
SUNDAY: Weedon Island canoe/kayak paddle, Suncoast Sierra Club, 392-2821.
-- Send information to Outdoors, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. All items must be typed and arrive 10 days before the event. Include event name, address and phone number.