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Snook should be a focus as closure nears

By DOUG HEMMER
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 18, 2003

The four-month closure on snook is less than two weeks away. Most schools can be found near mangrove shorelines. Areas to check are the St. Petersburg-Clearwater airport, the bay side of Weedon Island, Cockroach Bay, Port Manatee shoreline, the small bridge south of the Skyway and residential canals closest to the beach.

Chumming with live whitebait puts snook near mangroves into a feeding frenzy. Free-line your bait where the snook are striking the surface. The best action over the next six days will be on the outgoing tide. Residential docks are a little harder to fish. A free-lined shrimp on light tackle draws the most strikes, but landing a legal one is a challenge. Most keepers are caught on 30- to 50-pound test. Scaled sardines or grunts fished close to the structure will get the attention of larger snook. The stronger the tide, the better the action.

Trout action in lower Tampa Bay continues to be outstanding. Pumpkin seed- or motor oil slug-style jigs dragged close to the grass have produced most of the action. In the past week, shrimp on a popping cork got most of the larger fish.

The best action will be on a moving tide in clean water. Fish in 3 feet of water on the dropoff of the flat during low tides and move over the flats when the tide is higher.

Redfish are hanging close to mullet schools. Whitebait and small pinfish under a cork will help keep your bait out of the grass. Weedon Island and Tarpon Key are holding reds. If there are only a few boats working the area, the action can be good. Anchoring on a corner of mangroves and waiting for the reds to move through works in a crowd.

Offshore, small kings are hanging on the Betty Rose and the south county reef just north of the Rose. Grouper action has been spotty. The hot bite is snapper on small ledges. Small live sardines or threadfins work great on light tackle.

-- Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.

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