© St. Petersburg Times, published January 19, 2003
Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber went fishing between practices last week. His schedule permitted only a short session of inshore angling early in the morning. Air temperatures had dropped to 40 and the seas were churned from wind, awful conditions that make fishing challenging.
Things got started at the jetty off Clearwater Pass. An incoming tide provided a great tidal rip at the west end. Anchoring ahead of the rip and casting back produced a few black drum and speckled trout. A 1/4-ounce split-shot sinker connected 1 foot from a live shrimp accounted for most of the bites. Keeping the baits in front of the fish was important, since they weren't going out of their way to eat. The trout were stacked ahead of the rip away from the rocks, and the drum stayed close to the rocks.
After a few hours of catching small ones on light tackle, we went looking for bigger fish. Barber never had caught a grouper, so we anchored over one of my favorite rock piles. If this honey hole wouldn't produce, none would. Our location was 3 miles southwest of the pass, 22 feet deep. Surface water temperature was 57. Grouper don't eat much when temperatures creep below 60, so the odds were against us. After 30 minutes of reeling in small Key West grunts and sea bass, persistency paid off. Barber persuaded a 12-pound gag to eat his frozen sardine. All the commotion of small reef fish being caught lured the big grouper.
Again, keeping baits in front of the fish is what worked. It just takes a little longer to get their attention when it's cold.
-- Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 595-3276, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .