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Hunger increases as the water clears
By ROB GORTA, Times Correspondent
Published September 28, 2007
The water temperature around the Skyway Bridge is starting to cool off. I had readings in the low to mid 80s on the flats around Fort De Soto Park. The cooler temperature causes the water to clear up, and fish to feed more aggressively.
Redfish continue to be my main focus. On a high tide, I will target a school along mangrove shorelines with pinfish and grunts under a cork. These fish are swimming in and out of the mangroves looking for crabs, chubs, finger mullet and pinfish. If reds are in the area, they usually bite right away. If I don't get a hit, I slowly work the shoreline until I get a strike. Once the tide gets low, the fish move on and I move on to a different school that will be on the edge of a flat. Schools that hang on the edge have to be approached carefully. If they are spooked, they will drop into deep water and become difficult to locate.
Circle hooks work extremely well with redfish. I like to use 1/0 to 4/0, depending on the size of the bait. The catch ratio is much higher using circle hooks. The thing you have to remember is not to set the hook. Once the line straightens out, just reel tight until the drag starts to run, then you can do whatever you want. The less you do, the more fish you catch.
Smaller bait are everywhere on the grass flats. A smaller mesh cast net is required to catch them. I use a quarter-inch mesh to fill the well with as much bait as possible, being careful not to overload the well. These smaller baits provide enough of what it takes to get snook in the mood to eat. Start by throwing a few chummers in the water, once fish start to hit, begin throwing more chum in the water to get the fish in a frenzy. Sometimes, no matter what you do, snook will not eat. If this happens, I leave the fish alone for a few hours and go back to that spot later. This can make all the difference when snook fishing. Approach the fish with care, being as quiet as possible. With small baits, use a No. 1-size hook. This will allow the bait swim naturally and prevent snags on the bottom.
Cobia fishing should start to pick up. These fish are easy to target, but a lot of travel may be required. I hit every marker in the bay and look for fish swimming on the surface. A single piling, range markers, day boards and buoys will all hold fish. My favorite bait is a large pinfish under a cork. Throw the bait right next to the marker, if a fish is there, it will strike within a couple of casts. If you do not get a strike, move to the next marker. My largest cobia ever is 62 pounds, and it was caught in the month of September.