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Time is right to fall into patterns

With stabilized weather conditions, fishing on the west-central Florida coast has rolled into the summer patterns. The slick, calm waters at daybreak is a great time to find rolling tarpon along the beaches and inside the Intracoastal Waterway. The increased water temperature has made these silver kings begin to migrate more north and get ready for the spawn that usually occurs in mid July at the edge of the continental shelf.

By JIM HUDDLESTON
Published June 22, 2007


With stabilized weather conditions, fishing on the west-central Florida coast has rolled into the summer patterns. The slick, calm waters at daybreak is a great time to find rolling tarpon along the beaches and inside the Intracoastal Waterway. The increased water temperature has made these silver kings begin to migrate more north and get ready for the spawn that usually occurs in mid July at the edge of the continental shelf.

Snook are also setting up along the beaches to spawn in the high salinity and current movement that will help carry the offspring. The biggest linesiders of the year are caught during the sweltering heat of summer. Increased tidal height on the flats has schools of redfish swimming deep into the mangroves to feed among the root system. The higher tides will make these bronze bruisers hold together to work a stretch of shoreline that has good water moving down it.

The west coast beaches from Anclote Island down to Sarasota are loaded with concentrations of tarpon through July. With so much open area, an angler can set up on an edge and wait for the fish to travel up and down the sandbars and get numerous shots throughout the day. Patience is key, along with a variety of baits for the silver kings.

For dead baits, nothing beats a frozen shad stuck right to the bottom with some lead to hold it stationary.

This method keeps the offering in the strike zone longer. Pinfish, threadfins and crabs are good mid-column offerings to cruising fish. A cork about 4 to 5 feet up from the hook keeps the bait high enough where it is seen off the bottom.

The best overlooked bait is a jumbo live shrimp with a split shot just above the hook. This is the top choice to cast at daisy chaining tarpon. Heavier spinning outfits rigged with 50- to 60-pound fluorocarbon leader and 40-pound superbraid work well on the gin-clear waters off the north suncoast. A size 5/0 sharp hook will not impede on the bait presentation, and has enough gap to penetrate a tarpon's mouth.

The snook are working the sandy shorelines of Pinellas County and staging up in swash channels and eddies to feed heavily before the spawn.

Female snook are biting best at first light and are handling the biggest baits that can be tossed at them.

Large greenbacks, pinfish and pigfish are top offerings that will increase an angler's chance at finding some that will chew.

Most of the time a 20-pound snook will be surrounded by a dozen or so males that find the bait more quickly.

The many pods of glass minnows that look like black clouds are usually followed by a snook or two. Find the smallest greenback in the well to present into the action. On clear days we got bites with 25-pound fluorocarbon leader.