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Spring's bounty is here at last


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 20, 2001

Spring action has not let up for two weeks. Anglers report great catches from all depths. Kingfish, cobia, amberjack, sharks and even sailfish have been common.

Good numbers of king mackerel have been found everywhere. The spring run produces smaller (4- to 10-pound) kingfish at many offshore locations. Locals call these "schoolies" because they travel in large numbers. Closer to shore, the bigger kings are more prevalent. There are not as many fish in these shallow waters, but some will tip the scales at more than 40 pounds.

Egmont channel is one hot spot that's sure to be crowded today and Saturday because hundreds of angler will be trying to take home the $100,000 prize offered by this week's tournament. This area has been producing giant kings for weeks.

Offshore wrecks have become home to recent arrivals of cobia and amberjack. This week a 64-pound cobia was the biggest of many fish landed by my clients. Amberjacks have been smaller, averaging 10 to 20 pounds, but 100-foot-plus structures are holding much larger ones. State law requires at least 28 inches to the fork of the tail and a limit of one per person before these great-tasting fish can be brought to the dinner table.

Anglers on two of the charter boats at my marina hooked sailfish while trolling for kings about 10 miles from shore. These hungry billfish are lured from deeper waters by the influx of Spanish sardines and flying fish that migrate this way this time of year.

Giant spinner sharks also have made a strong appearance. This species resembles its close cousin, the common blacktip shark, but it is much larger. Hundred-plus-pounders have been numerous around commercial shrimp boats 20 miles from shore. This feisty cartilage fish earns its name by jumping out of the water and spinning like a top once hooked.

Blackfin tuna, normally near shrimp boats, have been absent. Scattered reports of tuna landings have been trickling in from the south. It may be a few more weeks before they come our way.

-- Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 595-3276, or e-mail

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