By RICK FRAZIER
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 9, 2001
Interested in trout? How about snook? Either way, there is plenty to go around.
Silver trout are making their presence felt right on time. The hard-bottom areas off Redington Beach typically hold plenty of silvers this time of year, but the action has been slower than normal. Pockets of these small trout, however, have been found along the deeper intracoastal channels. Use your bottom machine to locate a "cloud" and anchor.
Speckled trout also are on the menu inshore as long as you target the deeper edges of the grass flats. Work the 4- to 6-foot drop-offs with jigs, slow-sinking crankbaits and live shrimp.
As the water temperature is warming, so is snook fishing. Snook still are in the backwaters, but at least they can be enticed into hitting a fat shrimp, as long as it is discreetly presented. Go to an area where you've seen snook lying in the sun and stalk that spot. Chances are the snook still will be there, but any bit of unnatural commotion will scare them off. Free-line your tail-hooked shrimp so it swims naturally past the fish.
Sheepshead should be around through March and even April. Take advantage of this situation. Use small crabs, worms, shrimp, oysters and barnacles.
Offshore, keeper grouper are biting in 100-foot depths on cut sardines, frozen squid and pinfish. Start with the cut bait or squid and wait until the bite slows before dropping your live ones. Most gags will be under the ledges and breaks, while the reds will be hiding on the limestone bottom. If you're getting a lot of bites but are coming up empty, chances are mangrove snapper are tearing you up. Scale down your tackle and you'll be able to catch the snapper as well.
If you want fish for the barbecue, venture out to the 110-foot wrecks and reefs and tackle some feisty amberjacks. Be prepared to strap on the fighting belt if you expect to last for more than one fish.
Key West grunts are great if you want something for the table and don't want to spend all day on dinner. Head to 65-foot hard bottom and drop small pieces of cut squid until you get tired of catching them.
Party boats also are doing well on grunts. Black sea bass are being caught on these half-day trips. For better grouper and snapper action, take the overnight and multiday trips.
Head to the bay and gulf piers for silver trout, sheepshead and even a black drum or two.
- Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters in St. Petersburg. Call (727) 448-3817.