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Head inshore to get the best bites

Published April 14, 2007


It never fails. Schedule a kingfish tournament on any weekend in the spring or fall and rest assured the wind will blow like crazy. This weekend is no exception.

Fifteen- to 25-knot winds are expected today and Sunday. If the forecast is correct, offshore fishing will be out of the question. The worst part is the action out deep has been excellent. The Spanish and king mackerel have made a strong showing and the gag grouper bite has been good outside 45 feet.

From the looks of it, inshore fishing will be the only saltwater fishing available. At least there has been good action in close. Reds and trout have been tearing up live baits and the snook are just beginning to feed again after the sharp drop in water temperature with last week's cold front.

Baitfish have been plentiful but shifty. For a few days they settle into one particular area then as the weather patterns change, they move elsewhere. Having a few contacts to share information with can be helpful when trying to keep tabs on the location of the bait through all the changes. Last week, the main baitfish body was south of Tarpon Springs but recently they have been found farther north from Green Key to Hudson.

Look the schools over when you find them. When they are scattered it's best to chum them into range, but if they are thick just load the net and let it fly. Two or three casts are all it takes to fill the well and get on your way.

The big, speckled trout are in full spawning mode and can be found in a variety of spots. Look for them over patches of hard bottom on the outer edges of the grass flats. In some cases the schools are so large they may be mistake for mullet, but if they have squared-off tails they are trout. Osprey can be helpful pointing out the trout schools as well. If you see three or four of these large birds hovering or dropping feet first into the water, give the spot a look.

The great redfish run of 2007 is still going strong. Though scaled sardines are the first choice, in some heavily-fished spots we have had our best luck using live pinfish for bait. When a spot gets hit regularly by anglers using sardines, two unwanted things are likely to take up residence there: small pinfish and terns.

The pinfish attack the sardines, usually eating their eyes out before nibbling their way back down the body. Terns are worse. They will continually bomb the water where the bait is while trying to snag and easy meal. This not only kills bait, but spooks the fish you are trying to catch.

Using live pinfish in these areas helps control the pinfish and terns. Pins do not usually eat their own and they tend to stay closer to the where bird attacks are less likely.

Snook fishing has been best in the late afternoons, particularly during the outgoing tides. Docks or large boats often harbor big snook in their shadows. Try pitching a live sardine alongside these structures and allowing the current to sweep it into the darkness beneath the cover.

Be prepared to engage in some pretty heavy pulling to take the fish from its barnacle-encrusted surroundings.

When dock fishing, I usually fish extra-tight drags and tell my clients to be prepared to run to the opposite end of the boat if necessary to pull a monster fish from it lair.

[Last modified April 14, 2007, 07:20:16]

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