By LARRY HOFFMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 2, 2001
Spring is here, whether you like it or not. We fished southwest of Egmont Channel on Wednesday and the water was crystal clear in 60 feet. The temperature was 72 degrees.
Bait schools of threadfin herring are up and down our beaches. In fact, we caught all the bait we needed in one cast-net throw off Blind Pass. The Egmont Channel markers are holding blue runners and cigar minnows.
There was a request to catch a "big fish." This time of year, amberjack is clearly the best choice, so we pushed southwest 35 miles and worked a spring in 100 feet. The first two blue runners down were hit hard.
Jack Grose, from Canada, and a few friends were used to catching walleye and bluegill. Grose was rewarded with a 60-pound jack and the action was non-stop. The amberjacks were 20 to 60 pounds and readily ate any live bait. Two hours on the spring produced all the amberjack they could handle, so we decided to work our magic on grouper and mangrove snapper.
We moved inside to 55 feet west of Sarasota and found the bottom fishing slow. Live threadfin herring and pinfish didn't seem to help. After six moves, we only were able to land two keeper grouper and two mangrove snapper. The cheese rock bottom we worked had been consistent, and I was a little disappointed with our results.
Other captains reported better results for grouper and snapper in 70 to 80 feet over ledges.
The major news is that kingfish have shown up in good numbers a month early. Plenty are being caught along our beaches.
The fishermen at Redington Pier have caught 30-pound kings all week.
Spanish mackerel are busting bait schools early. Kingfish have been caught near Egmont Channel, the shipwreck the Betty Rose and the Clearwater hard bottom.
- Larry "Huffy" Hoffman charters the Enterprise out of Kingfish Wharf, Treasure Island. Call (727) 709-9396.