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Top targets are cooperative

Redfish schools have settled down and have been cooperating. I look for a school in the morning and follow them until they get comfortable. The fish have been settling under overhanging mangrove trees on the extreme high tides from the new moon. You can expect the same pattern on the full moon tides next week.

By ROB GORTA, Times Correspondant
Published May 25, 2007


Redfish schools have settled down and have been cooperating. I look for a school in the morning and follow them until they get comfortable. The fish have been settling under overhanging mangrove trees on the extreme high tides from the new moon. You can expect the same pattern on the full moon tides next week.

Snook fishing is great and should remain that way through the end of the summer. Bay area beaches are holding good numbers of these fish. Look for them in the swash channels created by the wave action. Clear water has made it easy to sightcast for these stealth fish. After I locate fish, I anchor up wind so I can make a long cast. I nearly cast the bait on the beach, then reel it in, driving the snook to strike as they think the bait is running from them.

The Skyway Bridge area has been loaded with Spanish mackerel. Small scaled sardines free-lined on the down-current side of the bridge has produced best. Throw out a handful of live chummers to see if any fish are around. If the mackerel are there, they will chase the baits to the surface, even jumping out of the water crashing the bait. I use long-shanked hooks with a short piece of 29-pound wire to prevent breakoffs.

Tarpon are my preferred target this time of the year. I find that running up and down the coast can be a waste of time, so I pick a beach and anchor to wait for the fish to come to me. The longer I wait, the more schools I usually see. Once I see a pod of fish heading in my direction, I pull the anchor and push-pole toward the school. Threadfin herring and crabs are my favorite baits for tarpon, but pinfish, grunts, ladyfish and shrimp all work. It helps to have every kind of bait available, because you never know what they will eat that day.

GREAT CATCH: Robert Hammond and his son, Jordan, from Atlanta charter with me for three days every year. These guys fish hard. The first day I kept them out for more than 12 hours trying to get Jordan his first tarpon. We saw a ton of fish, but had no hookups, so we went after redfish for a while. They caught more than 20 fish in an hour and a half to make up for the blank day on tarpon.

Day 2 yielded three hookups, including Jordan's first-ever tarpon. I touched the leader after a 1-hour, 50-minute battle, then the fish finally broke off.