By DAVE ZALEWSKI
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 7, 2000
The early bird gets the worm is an adage that can be applied to inshore and offshore fishing this time of year.
Last week's strong tides caused by the new moon required getting up early to hit the morning bite. The solunar tables revealed a minor at about 9 a.m. each day. Inshore anglers who were on the water before sunrise and near the mangrove islands scored well with trout, catch-and-release snook and redfish.
Those who slept in arrived at their favorite flats to see a wide expanse of real estate caused by the extreme tidal flow. All was not lost for late risers, however, because low tides later in the morning made conditions ideal for flounder. Doormat-sized flounder often lie in sandy areas adjacent to grass flats and feed on small fish and crustaceans washed off the flats by fast-moving tides. A small whitebait/jighead combination dragged across the sandy areas produced bragging-sized flounder.
Tarpon fishing continues to be hot at the Skyway. Again, anglers willing to get up early did the best. Shad, free-lined threadfins and crabs produced the most fish. Tarpon anglers have been surprised by large cobia that have inhaled the baits put out for tarpon.
Fishing the gulf from the shoreline at this time of year is not only productive but also relaxing. All it takes is a medium spinning or baitcasting outfit and your choice of live or artificial baits. Shrimp, whitebait or sand fleas free-lined in the swash channel may produce snook, trout, redfish, pompano, ladyfish or jacks, along with an occasional shark. Just before and just after sunrise and sunset produce the best.
Hard-bottom areas in the 80- to 90-foot range continue to produce great catches of red and gag grouper. Live bait seems to produce the best at this time of year. We have caught the majority of our fish on a combination of squid and sardines impaled on the hook. I don't know why this is occurring, but make sure you have an assortment of frozen and live bait.
Divers are experiencing good visibility in 60-foot-plus depths on most days. If you have been hesitant to try gulf diving because of limited visibility, now is the time to experience some of the great diving available.