© St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2003
There are fish you can count on in late February: amberjack when you can get offshore, sheepshead if you can't.
Those able to get to wrecks and reefs in 100-150 feet haven't been disappointed. Capt. Dave Hohl and his group rumbled with their limit of amberjacks up to 30 pounds on a recent trip to 150 feet.
Even in the worst conditions, we have caught good numbers of sheepies. Saturday, fishing the leeward side of Boca Ceiga Bay, we caught them up to 5 pounds in winds of 25 mph.
Take advantage through this month and into March. It won't get any better as they fatten up, preparing to spawn.
Calm seas forecast for much of the week will allow grouper diggers to dial in the most productive depths. Warmer temperatures will tempt them back into the 50-foot range.
Increasing amounts of bait schools and rising water temperature will spur some widely scattered kingfish reports. As they migrate from the south during our spring run, tournament results from Fort Myers, Naples and Sarasota will best test the pulse of how fast the fish are moving up the coast. It likely will be a month before the big numbers get here.
Change those bait-well pumps and install extra rod-holders because there will be little time to do so once fish get here.
-- Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.