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Power plant areas generate most action

By Ed Walker
Published February 3, 2007


Rapidly chilling water has sent snook, pompano, permit, and some redfish off the shallow flats and into deeper water or the mechanically generated warmth of the power plant discharges.

When working the outfall canals, at times there will be no fish biting for a few hours, then rods will start bending all over the place. Sometimes it is a run of pompano and small permit, other times the big speckled trout start grabbing baits from one end of the canal to the other. Bluefish, ladyfish, and big jacks also take turns rampaging in and out of the off-limits section of most power plant outfalls. In fact, there are not many species of fish that do not show up here. Tarpon, sharks, goliath grouper, cobia, redfish, mackerel, black drum, gag grouper, snapper and others are occasionally taken from the Anclote and Crystal river warm water runoffs.

The key to success near the power plants is diversity. Rig your rods for a variety of fish so you are ready if the bite for one or the other turns on. The most important is a light jigging rod. A 7-foot rod and a light reel spooled with 10-pound test line, a section of 30-pound test leader, and a small but heavy yellow jig will produce pompano and permit as well as many of the other species. If the speckled trout start biting, a live shrimp fished near the bottom with a small split shot sinker works a little better. For jacks and bluefish, nothing beats a noisy topwater plug.

When the weather starts to warm up, the fish will gradually move away from the power plants in search of food. This transitional period can produce great catches, often with few other boats around.

Out on the open gulf, sheepshead are at the peak of their spawning season and nearly all of the reefs have been holding large numbers of big fish.

Grouper fishing has been decent in depths of 30 to 50 feet. The National Marine Fisheries Service has ordered a 30-day closure of red, gag, and black grouper beginning Feb. 15 in federal waters outside 9 miles from shore. Nature Coast anglers may want to work their deeper grouper spots now before the closure goes into effect. Once that happens, all grouper fishing, except for catch and release, will have to take place in shallow water.

Mangrove snapper have been fairly active around the deeper wrecks. While they can be hit or miss, recent trips have produced good numbers of mangrove snapper up to 5 pounds. Since they tend to be finicky, lighter equipment is usually required to coax them into feeding. You can put a dead sardine on heavy rig with 80-pound test leader in the middle of a school of "mangos" and never get a bite. Switching to a smaller bait, on a long 30-pound test leader with a 2/0 hook will get things going. As the snapper move in to investigate a potential meal, they make repeated passes by it, each time taking a closer look. Only when they are convinced that there is nothing wrong with a bait will they grab it with their mouths. There is a bag limit of 10 mangrove snapper per person, per day. Be careful when removing them from a hook. They are one of few fish that will intentionally try to bite you. Once they latch on, they don't want to let go.

Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. Call (727) 944-3474 or e-mail

[Last modified February 3, 2007, 07:41:15]

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