© St. Petersburg Times, published October 23, 2002
Though it has been a little windy the past few days, it hasn't seemed to bother the fish. The toughest thing about fishing right now is deciding what to fish for.
The gags and some nice mangos are starting to stack up on ledges just north of Egmont Channel south to just off Anna Maria in 40-65 feet of water. Live bait has been the key to boxing some of the biggest fish, but use cut bait to get the bite started. If you want to add kings to the mix, drift a flat-lined sardine behind the boat and it won't be long before line is being ripped off the reel at warp speed.
Red grouper are devouring just about any bait dropped to the bottom. The best bite has been from 3-5 miles southeast of the Mexican pride in 105-115 feet of water. Keep an eye open for shrimp boats. On a recent trip we boated a couple 27-pound tuna on live Spanish sardines. There also has been a good mix of gag grouper and lane and mangrove snapper.
Closer to shore, Spanish mackerel can be found just about anywhere. Slow-trolled live baits meant for kingfish have been inhaled as fast as we could get them out. Watch for feeding birds.
Cobia can be found on artificial reefs and near-shore wrecks just off the beaches. Again, slow-troll live intended for kings are being picked off by 15- to 30-pound brown bombers.
-- Randy Rochelle runs Islander Charters in St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 528-1213 or by e-mail at Islandercharters@ij.net.