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Captain's corner

By ED WALKER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 18, 2001


Action is starting to sizzle

Summer fishing conditions are here. Water temperatures have climbed into the upper 70s, and all of the warm water species are active. Tarpon fishing is kicking into high gear from Boca Grande to Homosassa.

In the Tampa Bay area, tarpon are being caught at the Sunshine Skyway and Gandy bridges, as well as in the upper bay. A few are beginning to make an appearance along the beaches. Bridge fishermen do best when fishing the strong outgoing tides around the full and new moon. Free-lining live thread herring in the eddy behind the pilings is the most effective method. Night fishing is best on the new moon when the lights on the bridge create a more defined shadow line and the fish are more visible as they swim just outside the darkness. It is important to position your boat in the dark in order to see the cruising fish. If you are in the light, it is virtually impossible to see them. Smaller baits such as scaled sardines and even live shrimp are the best choice at night.

Another tarpon fishing method is bottom fishing. Local anglers figured out long ago that by anchoring and chumming with dead shad they could draw the tarpon close to the boat, where they would pick up fresh dead baits set out in a circular pattern around the boat. This method works well in stagnant backwater areas and stretches of dirty water in the select areas around the bay. In these areas, the tarpon are swimming singularly, away from schools. When they are schooling, they usually won't stop to investigate a smell.

Snook fishing is excellent right now. Most have taken up residence along the beaches and passes. When they are on the beach in the early morning, sight-cast toward the fish as they cruise within a few feet of the dry sand on the shoreline. Best baits are live scaled sardines and threadfins. Small shad-tail jigs are effective, if you don't have access to live bait.

Although you can't keep them anymore, giant snook are stacked up in the inlets such as Clearwater and John's Pass. If you want to catch a really big snook, now is the time. Fishing large, live baits late at night under the bridges is the best way to connect with a 20-pound class snook. For baits, try a live ladyfish or shad.

Offshore grouper fishing is fair, but amberjack fishing is outstanding. Best bet is to try your favorite grouper holes, and if they aren't producing, check out one of the big wrecks. The key to getting the big jacks to bite is a big, live blue runner. While you may catch plenty of smaller fish on other baits, the biggest ones go crazy over the blue runners.

Tuna fishing has slowed, but it is worth checking out the shrimpers for schooling blackfins. If the tunas are not there, you can bet the sharks will be. A recent tuna trip turned into a shark trip with many black tips in the 80-pound range.

-- Ed Walker charters out of Palm Harbor. Call (727) 944-3474 or e-mail TarponEd@aol.com.

Fishing

(All numbers begin with 727 unless noted)

SATURDAY: Spanish Mackerel Tournament, Billy's Stone Crab; 542-3900.

Seminar

TODAY: Fly-tying, Bill Jackson's; 576-4169.

SATURDAY: Fly-casting, Bill Jackson's, 576-4169; fly-casting, World Class Outfitters, (813) 968-3736; fly-casting, Saltwater Fly Fisherman, 443-5000; fly fishing with Stu Apte, Picnic Island Park, (813) 238-6763; Tarpon and grouper, BOAT/US, 785-3018.

Boating

TODAY: Twilight race, St. Petersburg, 822-3873.

TODAY-SATURDAY: Clearwater to Key West Regatta, 447-6000.

TODAY-SUNDAY: St. Petersburg Boat Show, Bayfront Center Yacht Basin, 897-9196.

TONIGHT: USF Sail Club meeting, Bayboro Campus; 821-4840.

SATURDAY: Safe-boating course, Clearwater, 462-6368; Couples Race 1400, St. Petersburg, 381-6363; free kayak demo, Sweetwater Kayaks, Tierra Verde, 906-0708; BoaterED boating course, St. Petersburg, 341-4451.

SUNDAY: Sunday race, Davis Island; (813) 251-1158.

Etc.

DAILY: Boyd Hill Nature Park tram tour; 893-7326.

SATURDAY: Guided hike, Brooker Creek Preserve; 943-4003.

- See Sunday's Outdoors for a list of next week's events. Send information to Outdoors, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. All items must be typed and arrive 10 days before the event. Include event name, time, address and phone number.

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