© St. Petersburg Times, published February 14, 2003
Gulf water temperatures remain miserably cold even with the improvement of weather. The grouper bite has been almost nonexistent. Patience is truly the key to muster up a fish or two.
We anchored over a beautiful show of grouper for almost an hour before they decided to eat.
The bottom line, if the sonar reads fish, stay on the spot. Another helpful tactic is putting down a double porgy rig accented with squid to get the grunts and other reef fish going. All the commotion of small fish fighting over squid chunks often gets the attention of the most finicky grouper.
If you need an ego boost after all the turmoil from grouper, try amberjack action. They're always hungry and ready to put up an awesome fight. Wrecks in deep water have been holding the larger numbers. We found impressive jacks over the larger ledges 25 miles northwest of Clearwater. This area is published in many fishing maps and called by many anglers "the checkerboard bottom." It is in 65 feet of water, and consists of endless amounts of 4- to 6-foot ledges, bundled up into a 2-mile square radius. The spot gets hit hard by commercial and recreational anglers, but always holds enough fish.
Tripletails are along the coast and will take a baited hook. This fish is scattered up and down the coast of Florida. February and March awards us with decent numbers. A big boat is not required since tripletails hang directly below crab trap buoys near the shoreline. Their appearance resembles an oversized sun fish (freshwater crappie) colored with different shades of brown. The anal fins are almost the same size as its tail, earning the name of tripletail. A free-lined shrimp is the best bait to toss once sighted. Expect numerous jumps and strong runs from these great fighters. Our biggest weighed 15 pounds and created quite a ruckus once hooked. Their table fare is rated at the top of my list for mild white fish.
The bay waters have started to warm a little because of the shallow depths. Snook can be found sunning themselves at the end of many canals. Residents of Indian Rocks Beach have sighted as many as 100 linesiders bundled up at one time. They congregate near the end of fingers to sun themselves at the shallower depths. Appetites are minimal, but they can be fooled with extremely small baits. Early morning seems to be the perfect time to try.
-- Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 595-3276, or e-mail email@example.com .
(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)
TUESDAY: Spring Hill Fishing Club meeting, Senior Citizens Hall, Susan Drive, Weeki Wachee, (352) 592-8688.
THURSDAY: Saltwater Fly Fisherman monthly meeting, Clearwater, 443-5000.
MONDAY-THURSDAY: Spiny lobster workshops, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Site for workshop varies each day. Call (850) 487-0554 for information.
SATURDAY: Fly casting, Bill Jackson's, 576-4169.
SATURDAY: Safe boating, Clearwater, 462-6368.
SATURDAY: Fly casting, Saltwater Fly Fishers, Clearwater, 443-5000.
THURSDAY: Shallow water redfish and trout fishing, Capt. Brian Caudill, West Marine, St. Petersburg, 327-0072.
MONDAY: Safe-boating course, Clearwater Sail and Power Squadron, 441-8775 or 392-1431.
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: Guided hike, Weedon Island Preserve, 453-6500 or 453-6506.