The early angler gets the fish
By LARRY HOFFMAN
© St. Petersburg Times,
Summer heat and rising water temperatures have caused us to start our fishing charters early and end our days early. Leaving the dock at 6 a.m. has its advantages, allowing for a good day of fishing and beating the mid-day heat.
Early morning winds are mild and allow for a fast run offshore. We have successfully beaten every boat this week to shrimp boats and shipwrecks. Getting our baits in the water as the sun comes up has produced nice catches, and we fooled otherwise skittish fish because the light still was poor.
In depths of 85 to 110 feet, we have caught mangrove snapper, red and gag grouper and amberjack. The most successful bait has been a live Spanish sardine. You should start with dead bait to attract some fish, then go to live bait. We have caught mangos up to 8 pounds with the sardines.
The mangos have been aggressive and most have been females full of roe. The mangrove snapper will feed strong until the next full moon, and then they will spawn and change feeding patterns. Just about any hard-bottom ledge or shipwreck will hold mangos right now.
Amberjack and barracuda are thick over every wreck we have fished. The bait of choice for the jacks has been live blue runners. But the barracuda have been eating the blue runners before the jacks can get to them. To avoid the barracudas, switch to pinfish or spadefish. This will reduce the barracuda strikes, and you still should get the jacks to feed.
This time of year is perfect for blue-water fishing. Tuna, wahoo and dolphin are plentiful just 40 to 60 miles offshore. Look for weed lines, tide rips or floating debris, and you will find fish.
We troll tuna and wahoo lures with red and black shirts in the early mornings. As the day gets brighter, we switch to green and yellow and pink and silver skirted lures. Troll lures at least 7.5 knots and place one lure way back in the spread. Once you find weed lines, troll both sides of the weed line to adequately cover the area. It is not unusual to bag all three species in a single trip.
Fishermen on the Redington Pier have had nice catches of tarpon, cobia, flounder and redfish. Most are hooked early morning and early evening.
-- Larry "Huffy" Hoffman charters the Enterprise out of Kingfish Wharf, Treasure Island. Call (727) 709-9396.
(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)
SATURDAY: Night snook outing, Suncoast Fly Fishers, War Memorial Boat Ramp, Bay Pines, 709-4437.
UPCOMING: Tenth Annual Scot Brantley Celebrity Flats Tournament, Treasure Island, Treasure Island Charities, 363-0071.
SATURDAY: Fly-casting, Bill Jackson's, 576-4169.
SATURDAY: Fly-casting, World Class Outfitters, (813) 968-3736.
SATURDAY: Fly-casting, Saltwater Fly Fisherman, 443-5000.
TODAY: Friday race, Clearwater, 447-6000.
TONIGHT: USF Sail Club meeting, Bayboro Campus, 821-4840.
SATURDAY: Safe Boating Course, Clearwater, 462-6368.
SATURDAY: Boat smart course, Apollo Beach, (813) 645-5168.
SATURDAY: Safe-boating course, Clearwater, 441-8775.
SATURDAY: Bay race, Tampa, (813) 645-8377.
DAILY: Boyd Hill Nature Park tram tour; 893-7326.
SATURDAY: Guided hike, Brooker Creek Preserve; 943-4003.
SUNDAY: Bicycle ride, Pinellas Trail, Taylor Park to Curlew, Suncoast Sierra Club, 392-2821.
-- 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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