© St. Petersburg Times, published September 20, 2002
The offshore water temperature is nearing the lower 80s. Action is starting to increase inside the 40-mile mark. As the temperature continues to drop, start looking in shallower water for grouper and snapper.
Tuesday was spent fishing aboard the Fintastic with Captain Steve Papen. We started bottom-fishing the small ledges 35 miles out using live pinfish. Papen worked the spots that showed a spike on the bottom recorder. Drifting the spot a few times let us know if the ledge held grouper. After landing reds and gags in the 8- to 10-range, we anchored up.
The bite was hot. As soon as our pinfish hit the bottom, the rod would double. The bite lasted about an hour before we made the big mistake. We lost a very large grouper in the rocks. This shut off the bite like a light switch. When the biggest fish gets away, its goes back to the pack barking. The rest of the smaller fish know something is wrong and stop feeding.
We headed out to 45 feet, where the big gags want big baits. The grouper were running 15 pounds and up. If you didn't have a large pinfish or grunt, the amberjacks would slam the bait before it got to the bottom.
Tarpon still are hanging along the beach and back in the residential canals. The tarpon on the beach can be found by bird activity and clouds of cream-colored water. Cast a free-lined pinfish near the cloudy water or where you see the tarpon rolling.
Snook still are in the passes. Most of the large breeders are moving farther into the bay, but the passes have the 24- to 35-inch keepers. Grunts fished on the bottom, near the bridges, are very productive.
-- Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.
(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)
THURSDAY: Saltwater Fly Fisherman monthly meeting, Clearwater, 443-5000.
SATURDAY: Fly-casting, Bill Jackson's, 576-4169.
SATURDAY: Safe boating, Clearwater, 462-6368.
TUESDAY: Saltwater fishing class, Lakewood Community School (1400 54th Ave. S), St. Petersburg. (727) 893-2955 after 2 p.m.
THURSDAY: Flats fishing, Capt. Doug Hemmer, Cypress Point Shopping Center, (727) 726-7756.
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: Overnight backpack trip in Kissimmee State Park, Suncoast Sierra Club, (727) 539-0882.
SATURDAY: Guided hike, Brooker Creek Preserve, 943-4003.
SATURDAY: Guided walk, Weedon Island Preserve, 217-7208.
-- 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.