By RICK FRAZIER
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 25, 2001
This time of year, it pays to be choosy What do you prefer? Red drum? Tarpon? How about snook and pompano? One thing is for sure: There is plenty of action for everybody. Tarpon may be on the top of the hit list. Plenty are being boated at the major overpasses, mud holes and along the beaches starting at Longboat Key and heading north.
Free-lining threadfins (greenbacks) or big sardines work best for day or night pursuit of tarpon at the big bridges. Tarpon ambush prey that is caught in the current eddies behind pilings, concrete bumpers or wooden structures. Cast up-current and let the bait drift down naturally through and beyond the eddy. Wait until you feel the fish pulling before you set the hook. Most fish are lost because the hook is pulled out of the fish's mouth before it has time to swallow the bait.
On the beaches, sight-cast for rolling fish with live greenies or pinfish under a float. Present your bait well ahead of moving schools and let the tarpon come to it. Casting into the pod creates havoc in the school and sends the fish running in every direction.
Take advantage of high tides for redfish around oyster bars, mangrove islands and sandbars. The best technique for putting an 18- to 27-incher in the cooler is to use live bait under a float. Whitebait, pinfish, grunts and live shrimp work well. A stealthy approach in the skinny water where these reds are feeding is a must. If snook is on the menu, you're running out of time, because the season closes in another six days. Decent-size keepers are being caught under dock lights throughout the major gulf passes. Dock fishing for these bruisers means heavy tackle, and if you're not using one of the new braided lines for this technique, you should be. This type of line doesn't stretch and barnacles won't cut it. You also can crank the drag down tight on your reel and yank the snook away from the structures.
Pompano are great fighters on light tackle and can be caught several different ways. They are tricky to find, but gulf passes with turbulent water are the best places to start. Fiddler crabs are your best live bait, but live shrimp also work. Put the shrimp on a slip-sinker rig with plenty of lead weight to keep your offering near the bottom. Cast up-current and let it bounce along the bottom down-current.
Local piers are getting tarpon at night. Pier 60 in Clearwater is a great night-time snook location. The gulf pier at Fort De Soto is producing Spanish mackerel, pompano and tarpon. Half-day party boats are catching grunts and grouper. Climb aboard the longer charters for snapper, larger grouper and amberjack.
-- Captain Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters in St. Petersburg. Call (727) 448-3817 or e-mail email@example.com
(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)
UPCOMING FISHING REGULATIONS: Snook season, closed June, July and August..
TODAY-SATURDAY: Thunder Marine Fishing Tournament, Thunder Marine, St. Petersburg, 319-0568. UPCOMING: Miller's Marina Mega Money Tarpon Tournament, July 8-9, Miller's Marina, Boca Grande, (941) 964-8080.
SUNDAY: Summer inshore fishing with Boone Moore, Holy Mackerel Tackle, Pinellas Park, 547-9889; Boca Grande Tarpon fishing with Wendell Akins, Holy Mackerel Tackle, Pinellas Park, 547-9889
TONIGHT: USF Sail Club meeting, Bayboro Campus, 821-4840. SATURDAY: Safe-boating course, Clearwater, 462-6368.
SATURDAY: Bay race, Tampa Sailing Squadron, (813) 645-8377.
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.