© St. Petersburg Times, published December 16, 2002
Unfavorable weather has made inshore fishing challenging. Finding clean water and areas that hold bait have been the key to success. The barrier keys around lower Tampa Bay have good numbers of trout and a few reds. Snook can be found in deeper water in residential canals. Rattling crank baits worked close to the structure after dark should produce plenty of catch-and-release action.
A recent afternoon proved memorable. After filling a live well with 4- to 5-inch scaled sardines, we caught trout nonstop for 21/2 hours. Seven of the 30 released were 26 to 28 inches. The net ban several years ago and the controlled season closures have stimulated the trout population, and more anglers report catches of larger trout each year.
Trout love artificial jigs and lures as well as live baits like shrimp, scaled sardines and small pinfish. Artificial baits often are used to find concentrations of fish. Once located, put out the anchor and float live baits above the grass flats suspended under a float with 3 feet of 25-pound fluorocarbon leader and a 2.0 live bait hook. After the float goes down, reel up the slack quickly. When you feel the pressure of the fish on your line, lightly set the hook and keep steady pressure on the fish.
-- Capt. Dan Brooks charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 867-7856 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.