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Daily fishing report

The central west coast has started its transition from fall to winter fishing conditions.

By LARRY HOFFMAN
Published December 3, 2006


The central west coast has started its transition from fall to winter fishing conditions. Water temperatures are declining with cold fronts and cooler nights. As the water temperature drops, fishing strategies must adapt.

Target kingfish, Spanish mackerel and cobia as the tail end of the fall migration moves through our area in the next few weeks. Finding live bait means potential predator fish are close by. Live bait schools attract topside predators while grouper and snapper congregate near the bottom.

Seventy feet and deeper should continue to produce good catches of grouper - gags and reds. Up to 90 feet, the gag population is pretty strong - past 100 feet the grouper will be mostly reds. A small ledge, however, does not attract red grouper.

On all-day trips we like to mix it up, fishing for kingfish and blackfin tuna early, then moving offshore to fresh water springs and finding multiple species. Mangrove snappers are near the edges of the springs and the amberjack can be found from the bottom to the top of the water column. Springs can produce a limit of all the good fish in one stop. The challenge is to have the right baits and light, medium and heavy tackle to accommodate each species.

Amberjacks will readily devour blue runners, their favorite live bait. They will also dine on large pinfish, threadfins and spadefish. Fifty- to 60-pound class tackle with smooth drags and fighting belts are essential when fighting amberjacks up to 70 pounds.

Grouper will be along the edges of the spring and 40- to 50-pound class tackle should be adequate. Twenty- to 30-pound class tackle will help make sure it doesn't spook the snapper.

Cold fronts will shut down our ability to get offshore three to four days a week because of the winds. Cold fronts bring strong northwest winds, then they clock around to the east - that's when you can safely get offshore and fish.

Larry ""Huffy" Hoffman charters out of John's Pass, Treasure Island. Call 727 709-9396 or e-mail him at huffyl@tampabay.rr.com.

For today's tides chart, see the weather package on 2A, or online at outdoors.tampabay.com.