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Deep water the key to a jump-start


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 26, 2001

Unusually cold water remains the most important factor for Suncoast fisherman to consider. Temperatures this week have been as low as 52 on area flats and 55 offshore.

The best inshore strategy has been to work deep canals, rivers and coves early in the day and move outside in the afternoon.

Fishing was remarkably good in the Anclote River the past few days. We caught a grand slam (snook, trout and redfish) Wednesday, free-lining live shrimp on ultralight tackle.

I wouldn't recommend blowing the dust off the snook gear, but it was nice to catch one. Most of the trout and the redfish have been about 5 pounds. Because of extra-clear water, I have been fishing with straight 8-pound test line and no leader. It makes a big difference in the number of bites. As long as you use a light drag, most trout and reds won't wear through it.

Buy decent-sized shrimp for free-lining because the bait is the only weight you will cast, and distance is important.

Trim the fan section of the tail and tail-hook it from the bottom up. Removing the fan allows the shrimp's scent into the water and reduces its ability to escape. They also cast better when hooked this way than through the horn. Hook size should be proportional to the bait. I prefer a No. 1 hook with medium-sized shrimp and a 1/0 for jumbos.

Most fish have been around oyster bars. Anchor close enough to see the fish but not close enough to spook them. When spotted, cast your shrimp past the fish and slowly drag it closer. If you move it too fast, the fish will run from it.

Let it settle to the bottom and wait for the fish to sniff it out. Often, you can watch the fish eat the bait off the bottom.

Offshore fishing now depends on how far you are willing to go. If you can get to 100 feet of water, the grouper are biting. Amberjack fishing also has been good at these depths and deeper.

In shallower depths, fishing is difficult. Even grunts are not biting. It will take at least a week, perhaps two, of warm weather to improve things for the nearshore grouper fisherman.

- Ed Walker charters out of Palm Harbor. Call (727) 944-3474 or e-mail

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