By JAY MASTRY
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 29, 2001
If you are looking to battle the biggest and baddest game fish on this coast, now is the time. Big numbers of tarpon have returned to the Suncoast from their hangouts south, and they are looking to pick a fight with anglers.
Many are following the coast and cruising along the gulf beaches. Some have roamed well inside our bays. Some will inhabit our rivers, bayous and harbors. Some will roam in the ripping tides at the Sunshine Skyway, Gandy and Howard Frankland bridges.
While dodging thunderstorms and westerly wind last weekend, we caught and released a half-dozen up to 140 pounds about three long casts from the beach at Longboat Key. St. Pete Beach, Anna Maria, Blind Pass and Madeira Beach also have been productive. Near Pass-a-Grille, captain Joe Dvoracsek guided veteran tarpon angler Adele Nagel to a 162-pounder. Nagel, who is 85, fought the bruiser for 1 hour, 22 minutes. A day later, Dvoracsek got in on the action with a 164-pounder.
As this week's weather conditions improved, so did the bite. Tuesday we jumped three and released a 110-pounder near Port Manatee, and Chris Petry jumped a dozen on one tide fishing a rock pile well inside Tampa Bay. Wednesday, Charlie Crisp, with son Aaron and Alaina Bible, had seven jumps and released five tarpon from 80 to 120 pounds between Anna Maria and Longboat Key.
Though shad has been the main course offered from my boat, others have done well serving live baits. Pinfish, crabs, greenbacks and large white bait have been among the favorites. A combination of bottom baits and some presented nearer the surface is a sure way to determine which bait these finicky scavengers prefer on a given day.
The by-catch of tarpon fishing can be almost as exciting and certainly better eating. This week alone we also caught grouper, mangrove snapper, cobia, Spanish mackerel and kingfish.
Though sharks are considered a nuisance when tarpon fishing, there is no better time to be shark fishing. Hammerheads, black tips, bulls and others are willing to rumble. Monofilament leaders allow a bunch of them a free breakfast, but once in a while you'll hook one in the corner of the mouth and have to fight it all the way to the boat.
- Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.
(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)
SATURDAY: Tenth annual Scot Brantley Celebrity Flats Tournament, Treasure Island, Treasure Island Charities, 363-0071.
UPCOMING: Second annual East Lake High School Baseball Fishing Tournament, July 7-8, Ozona, proceeds to benefit the East Lake High School baseball team and the Upper Pinellas Association for Retarded Citizens, 943-7586.
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: Twilight race, St. Petersburg, 822-3873. TODAY: Friday race, Clearwater, 447-6000. TONIGHT: USF Sail Club meeting, Bayboro Campus, 821-4840. SATURDAY: Summer Cruise Race, St. Petersburg, 381-6363. SATURDAY: Free kayak demo, Sweetwater Kayaks, Tierra Verde, 906-0708. SATURDAY: Safe Boating Course, Clearwater, 462-6368.
DAILY: Boyd Hill Nature Park tram tour; 893-7326. SATURDAY: Guided hike, Brooker Creek Preserve; 943-4003. SATURDAY-SUNDAY: Overnight canoe/camping trip, Waccasassa River Preserve, Suncoast Sierra Club, 938-4093. -- 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.