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Don't let the heat beat you

By PETE KATSARELIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000


The summer heat wave is upon us and flats temperatures are rising quickly. Many anglers might choose to take these few months off and wait for the water to cool down. However, some excellent fishing opportunities are out there if you target the right species at the right times.

Early in the morning, focus on snook and tarpon, regardless of the tidal level just as long as it is moving. The first few hours of daylight should be best. You should be able to catch redfish any time of the day just as long as the tide is high.

With snook season being closed and the fishing pressure being lessened, June presents a great opportunity for catch-and-release snook action. Sometimes it seems the fighting prowess of the linesider is overshadowed by its table value. Early mornings on the beach should produce best.

Use light monofilament tackle (8 to 10-pound test) with 2 to 3 feet of 30-pound shock leader. Try freelining live pigfish, pinfish or threadfin herring. Most of these snook will range from 10 to 15 pounds with some larger females in the low 20s, so a reel with good capacity and a smooth drag is imperative.

Snook can be somewhat spooky and particular so don't be afraid to switch sizes and types of bait. Above all, if you know you're presenting your baits to a nice pod of fish, be patient. Sometimes you may have to wait 20 minutes or more for a bite, but believe me, it's worth it.

Make sure to be very careful when handling and resuscitating fish. Remember that the future populations of snook depend on these large females.

Also, while you're throwing to snook, keep an eye out for rolling schools of tarpon. If you happen to see one of these schools, get way out in front of them, shut your engine down, and toss a live threadfin into their probable path. The key to tarpon fishing is to lead the school with your bait presentation. Good areas to look for silver kings will be the west sides of Three Rooker Bar, Anclote and its north bar.

If redfish are your desired quarry, look for them to push up into the shade of the mangroves, especially on the major high tides. Usually, schools of 10 to 20 fish will bunch up in areas where an oyster bar sprouts out from underneath the overhanging mangroves.

One method to find these schools is to go about 10 feet off the edge of a mangrove shoreline on the high tide and start looking. When you locate a school, turn around and anchor about casting distance away from where you spotted them. Generally it takes 10 to 15 minutes for these fish to settle down, but they'll usually go right back to the same spot.

Another method to find these fish is to get a full well of greenbacks, and chum a likely shoreline at high tide. Anchor casting-distance away from the shore and throw a few handfuls of whitebait up next to the mangroves. If you haven't seen any strikes or swirls within 5 minutes, slide down the shoreline about 75 to 100 feet and try again. When you do come across a school you'll know it.

Once you locate the fish, try using 10- to 12-pound mono or, even better, an equivalent braided line. This is a good time to present your baits on corks so that you can make sure your offerings aren't straying away from the strike zone (within 5 feet of the branches).

If a fish strikes and runs up into the mangroves, dip the tip of your rod down into the water until you get the fish clear of them. That's why they make rods 7 to 8 feet long. With a little freshwater rinse, the rod will be good as new.

Whatever you decide to target, it's tough to go wrong. With a little scouting and a bit of patience, you can beat the summer heat to the fish.

-- Capt. Pete Katsarelis can be reached at (727) 439-FISH.

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