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Weather improves, so does the fishing


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 19, 2001

This week we have seen a great improvement in our weather. Because of this warming trend, the Gulf of Mexico has been producing some nice catches of grouper. Larry Jeisey and son Rich fished with me south of Egmont Channel in 55 feet of water over cheese-rock hard bottom and caught 15 gag grouper. Four pushed 16 pounds. We fished south because the water temperature was 5 degrees warmer. The grouper and mangrove snapper seemed to be concentrated in the warmer waters.

We had our best success using dead bait and fishing an area for a couple of hours to get the fish to chew. Lighter tackle was the key. Normally, we use 60-pound class tackle when grouper fishing. After changing to 40-pound class rigs, however, we were able to get the fish to feed. Two of our largest fish swallowed butterflied grunts. The mangrove snapper were hitting frozen sardines cut in half on 30-pound leaders.

Amberjack fishing has been outstanding. The biggest challenge is getting enough large bait. Offshore springs and shipwrecks 80-120 feet are holding legal amberjack. The deeper you fish, the bigger the amberjack. Reports from the overnight head boats out of Hubbard's Marine have been outstanding. They have been catching limits of grouper and amberjack on most of their trips. The Redington Long Pier has been producing flounder and silver trout.

This weekend looks good for offshore fishing. Start around 50 feet and work your way offshore. Give each stop at least 30 minutes to get the fish to feed. Use frozen sardines and squid, then move to a live bait if the dead bait doesn't produce fish.

- Larry "Huffy" Hoffman charters the Enterprise out of Kingfish Wharf, Treasure Island. Call (727) 709-9396.

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