© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2003
Southwest of Egmont Channel has been very productive the past two weeks. Grouper fishing in 45-75 feet is excellent, with gags up to 15 pounds being caught. Fish hard-bottom areas holding bait schools.
Water temperatures are in the low 70s, and large schools of bonito are crashing bait pods from Egmont Channel to Boca Grande. Kingfish action is strong off Boca Grande and is picking up off Sarasota. Kingfish can be found around shipwrecks and reefs, and slow-trolled live bait catches the biggest fish.
Black tuna action is spotty, but if you can locate an anchored shrimp boat your chances of finding tuna are excellent. The key ingredient to catching tuna is the presentation of live bait. The best bait is a live Spanish sardine. Early morning, when the shrimpers are releasing their by-catch is the best time to go after tuna. A live Spanish sardine hooked through the nose and freelined is the proven technique.
This time of year, you can expect to catch sailfish while slow-trolling live baits for kingfish. Sailfish follow the bait schools up the coast and can be found in 60-100 feet. Take a picture and release the sailfish, because they are not good table fare.
-- Larry "Huffy" Hoffman charters out of John's Pass, Treasure Island. Call (727) 709-9396.