By DAVE ZELEWSKI
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 13, 2001
Whenever offshore fishing slows down as it did just before the recent full moon, there seems to be an increase in the amount of "radio fish." There are two species: the "disappearing" radio fish, which no longer is in the fish box when the boat returns to port, and the "shrinking" radio fish that was 20 pounds when caught yet magically was reduced to 2 pounds when placed on the dock.
Offshore bottom fishing returned to normal with red grouper being found on their usual summertime haunts on the relatively flat Swiss cheese bottom in the 85- to 100-foot range. Gag grouper seem to again to have found a spot on ledges with few being caught foraging out on the hard-bottom areas.
Mangrove snapper are abundant and we have been returning with several nice fish each trip caught over both bottoms. One trick to put a few of these tasty, hard-to-catch fish in the box is to target them immediately when stopping on a grouper spot instead of hoping to catch one as a bonus. Fish at least one rod rigged with no more than 20 test mainline and a 20-pound test fluorocarbon leader. The hook should be a 1/0 short shank bait hook or small circle hook used with a 2-ounce sinker.
The best baits are small live white bait or very small pinfish. If live bait is not available, a 11/2-inch tail piece of frozen sardine will work very well. Mangos have small stomachs and will often become gorged as they strip the baits from the larger grouper rigs, which necessitates the use of downsized tackle to successfully catch them.
-- Capt. Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at (727) 397-8815 or by e-mail at Luckytoo2@aol.com.
(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)
TODAY: Bucs on the Bay Tournament, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bay Side Marina, Tampa, (813) 870-2700 .
UPCOMING: Thirtieth annual LOOP All Release Billfish Tournament, Aug. 9-12, Old Salt Fishing Club, Longboat Key Moorings, Longboat Key, 328-7699
SATURDAY: Fly-casting, World Class Outfitters, (813) 968-3736
SATURDAY: Fly-casting, Saltwater Fly Fisherman, 443-5000.
TONIGHT: USF Sail Club meeting, Bayboro Campus, 821-4840. TODAY: Twilight race, St. Petersburg, 822-3873. SATURDAY: Safe Boating Course, Clearwater, 462-6368.
DAILY: Boyd Hill Nature Park tram tour; 893-7326. TODAY: Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area Night Walk, (352) 754-6722. SATURDAY: Guided hike, Brooker Creek Preserve; 943-4003. SUNDAY: Exercise walk, Lettuce Lake Park, Tampa, (813) 920-0702.
CONSERVATION AND MARINE EDUCATION: Florida Marine Research Institute (FMRI): 896-8626, ask for education and information office, or www.floridamarine.org
HOTLINES: Resource Violations: (800) DIAL-FMP; Fish Kills: (800) 636-0511; Fish Tags: (800) 367-4461; Boating Safety: (800) 368-5647.