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Offshore the catch is permit

By RICK FRAZIER

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 30, 2001


Permit is a good bet offshore this weekend, weather permitting. So is king mackerel. Inshore, cobia, red drum and speckled trout should be major targets, especially for waders.

Permit is a good bet offshore this weekend, weather permitting. So is king mackerel. Inshore, cobia, red drum and speckled trout should be major targets, especially for waders.

Permit, I mean 25-pounders, are hanging at many of the wrecks and reefs not far off the beaches from Sarasota to Clearwater. These guys mean business, so take appropriate gear.

Small blue crabs, pass crabs and tail-hooked jumbo shrimp are prime baits. Permit have excellent vision so it's not a bad idea to dig a little deeper into your pocket for fluorocarbon leader.

Kings are where you find them but it seems we're still a week or two from the big push. The recent cold fronts are keeping the water muddy and the fish far off the beach, but at least they're keeping the water temperature down so the kings don't bypass us altogether. Pulling hardware is the easiest way to locate a few fish.

Glow spoons behind No. 2 or No. 3 planners work extremely well as do big lipped plugs. It's hard for a king to pass up a blue and silver plug that's digging for the bottom.

Cobia are making their presence known on the flats. Look for these brown bombers following big southern stingrays as well as big leopard rays. Rays kick up shrimp and crabs with their wings as they cruise across the shallow grass beds providing the cobias with a free meal. A free-lined pinfish or greenback will get noticed.

Red drum, or redfish or just plain reds are on the prowl north of Courtney Campbell Parkway. Wade the mouths of Double Branch and Rocky Creek with a gold spoon. Look for schools of mullet and make your casts into these schools. Mullet will stir up the bottom chasing shrimp and crabs from their hiding places right to the reds.

Big yellow-mouth speckled trout are all over the flats eating just about everything they can sink their canines into. In low-light situations break out the topwaters and slurp yourself a limit. Jigs with or without a popping cork work, especially if you add a red slug tail.

Live shrimp or whitebait under a float is rarely going to go untouched. Work the 2- to 4-foot grass flats that have intermittent sandy potholes. If you interested in kingfish and don't have a boat, go to the Redington Long Pier and check out the outrigging.

Locals have the technique down pat and are consistently putting tournament-winning fish on its planks. Whiting, silver trout and speckled trout are available during night hours.

Head boats on the half-day trips are catching decent size Key West grunts and black sea bass along with an occasional red grouper. Better catches of grouper and snapper are being boated on the day and overnight trips. For the real deal, take the three-day trip and fish until your arms are tired. Grouper, snapper and amberjack will help you do that.

- Capt. Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dog Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 448-3817 or by e-mail at captrick@luckydawg.com.

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