© St. Petersburg Times, published September 29, 2002
Bluewater fishing for marlin, tuna, wahoo, and dolphin is rapidly slowing off our coast. Through the middle of October, cooler water conditions and cold fronts hasten the transition to fall fishing and the start of kingfish season.
Conditions are excellent for bluewater fishing, but you need to get offshore in the next few weeks.
Amberjacks dominate offshore action, with gag grouper and big mangroves available the next few weeks. Gag grouper up to 20 pounds are feeding in 130-150 feet. Look for bait on your bottom machine, mark the area with a jug and fish the bait schools, which attract bigger fish that hold over cheese-rock and hard-bottom areas.
Shipwrecks and springs hold jacks, many up to 80 pounds. The larger the bait, the larger the jacks. Big blue runners, pinfish, grunts and spadefish work. Fifty-pound tackle with smooth drags and fighting belts are needed.
You may need to downsize leaders and hook sizes to catch bigger jacks. Six-foot leaders, 4-ounce weights and 4/0 hooks have produced.
Gag grouper are feeding primarily on live bait. Try small whitebaits and frozen sardines cut in half on 20-pound leaders with a green glowbead attached to a 3/0 hook.
Springs and shipwrecks hold yellowtail, vermillion and lane snappers, and expect blackfin tuna to migrate closer to shore as temperatures move into the 70s.
-- Larry "Huffy" Hoffman charters out of John's Pass, Treasure Island. Call (727) 709-9396.