By DAVE ZALEWSKI
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2001
After the longest run of nasty, cold weather that we have experienced in quite some time, fish and fishermen did not know how to react to the past week's perfect conditions.
Many offshore anglers headed to the 100- to 120-foot depths expecting grouper and snapper to be in abundance because of the extremely cold water inshore. Most were disappointed and had to return to the 50- to 60-foot depths to find fish willing to feed.
Mangrove snapper became active on the ledges, but the majority of the gag grouper has been caught by fishing on hard bottom adjacent to ledges. The fish have become interested in pursuing live baits with a squirrel fish, with half of its tail removed being the bait of choice for the larger fish.
All of the gulf piers from Clearwater south report increased activity with numerous whiting being caught. Speckled and silver trout along with an occasional doormat flounder also are being caught.
Sheepshead are thick around the pilings of every bridge. Those fishing with sand fleas and crabs have done well. The use of a small circle hook that can be found in most tackle stores will increase the hook-up ratio of these crafty bait stealers.
Trout fishing on the flats has shown the most improvement with a slight increase in water temperature. Every flats guide has experienced tremendous success during midday hours when the combination of warmer water and higher tides has caused the trout to become active. Small, hard-bodied lures and root-beer colored jigs are producing better than live bait.
-- Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.