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Beat the heat on the flats

By ED WALKER
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 12, 2002

Warm water and even warmer weather usually cause fishing to be a bit slow. When midday temperatures climb, most inshore fish become reluctant to feed.

Through July and August, flats fishermen will have the best opportunities by fishing in the morning or the evening when fish such as snook, trout and redfish are the most active.

Snook fishing has been excellent during the evening hours along the barrier islands and the passes. The north end of Honeymoon Island has been a great snook spot for many years. Big snook have been stacked up along the edge of the channel, hitting live shad and big grunts. Other snook hot spots are Anclote Key, Clearwater Pass, Blind Pass and the small cut running through Shell Island near St. Pete Beach.

Most anglers choose to wade along the edges of these places, but they can be fished from a boat as well. By wading, you are not only quiet but you can drift your bait with the tide by walking along as it drifts. Outgoing tides are much better when fishing these locations, but you can catch a few during the incoming tide.

Be sure to keep an eye on the weather. Fishing usually is best just about the time our typical evening thunderstorms come rolling in from the east. A few years back, an angler in a flats skiff had a bolt of lightning hit his boat at the north end of Honeymoon Island. There was major damage to his boat, all of his graphite rods were set on fire and he lost much of his hearing.

During the morning hours, snook can be found cruising the sandbars along the beaches. They can be sight-fished as they swim the edge of the shoreline by casting live whitebaits or bouncing a small jig.

You also may encounter pompano, small permit or even cobia. Most of these sight-casting opportunities will be gone by 11 a.m. as the sun gets higher and the sea breezes start to stir up the water.

Offshore action has been quite good as long as you can get out at least 15 miles. Snapper fishing has been outstanding over the deeper wrecks and ledges as the big mangrove snapper gather for their summer spawn. By anchoring up-tide from the structure, you can draw them to the surface and hook them by freelining small pieces of cut bait on light rods.

Night is best. Snapper will feed during the day, but barracuda will take a large percentage of those you hook. If you want a little payback, try sending down what's left of your snapper on a wire leader. More often than not, the barracuda will return to finish his meal.

One big surprise this week has been the numerous reports of kingfish being caught outside 20 miles, from Tarpon Springs south. While July is seldom known to be a good kingfish month, some fishermen have reported up to 10 kings in a day, and one more than 40 pounds recently was weighed at Port Tarpon Marina.

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

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