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Action improves when the tide moves

By ED WALKER

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 6, 2001


Summer temperatures can mean slow fishing, but this week's strong tides should help stimulate action.

As is most often the case this time of year, early morning and evening are the best times for inshore fishermen. By midafternoon, the shallows are too hot for fish to be active.

Snook fishing from the beach at sunset is a tradition along many of the passes and inlets on the north Suncoast. Honeymoon Island is the most popular hotspot, but there are many others. Anywhere the outgoing tide squeezes between land masses toward the gulf most likely will hold snook.

Other good areas are the north and south ends of Anclote Key and Three Rooker bar, the North Key Bar north of Anclote, and Hurricane Pass. Casting a live bait up current and letting it drift through with the tide accounts for some of the biggest snook of the year.

Several years ago, Neil Siegvartsen landed a 39-pound snook from the shores of Anclote Key. Most of the big fish are there for spawning, but the season is closed, so be sure to release them carefully. Catching and releasing snook will not have an adverse effect on spawning as long as handling is minimal and they are released quickly.

Best baits are grunts, pinfish, threadfin herring and jumbo scaled sardines. A split-shot sinker can be added if you are having trouble getting your bait near the bottom.

Smaller snook can be found cruising the front-side beaches in the morning before the sea breeze picks up. Smaller male fish can be sight-fished as they swim along the surfline. What they lack in size, they make up for in numbers. Steve Koscics and I landed 25 in 90 minutes on a recent morning. Medium-sized whitebaits are the best live baits and are seldom turned down.

Offshore action is spotty, but red grouper action has been decent outside 80 feet over flat, hard bottom. Your best bet for finding them is to drift with a 6- to 8-ounce weight and a piece of fresh-cut bait. When you hook a grouper, throw a marker jug, then return and anchor.

Gag grouper action is slow unless you can get far offshore. If you have the means to get to the middle grounds, you may want to organize a trip. Big gags and extra-large mangrove snapper are common on the giant ledges and peaks that make this area famous.

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

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