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Big catch may be right in back yard

By DAVE MISTRETTA

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 20, 2001


For the remainder of summer, tarpon fishing will become more productive in bays and intracoastal waterways. Larger fish will venture into areas with deep cuts or holes, settling until early fall. These backwater locations are considered a pit stop by some experts. After such a strenuous journey from spawning offshore, fish can rest without worrying about sharks. Some silver kings weigh 200 pounds and are over 50 years old.

For the remainder of summer, tarpon fishing will become more productive in bays and intracoastal waterways. Larger fish will venture into areas with deep cuts or holes, settling until early fall. These backwater locations are considered a pit stop by some experts. After such a strenuous journey from spawning offshore, fish can rest without worrying about sharks. Some silver kings weigh 200 pounds and are over 50 years old.

I first witnessed this years ago while mowing my back yard on the Indian Rocks Beach intracoastal. A giant tarpon came up for a gulp of air. This narrow body of water contained no more than 150 feet between sea walls and was only about 6 feet deep. It had a depression of 10 feet at the end, however. That was all it took to hold this trophy fish.

From then on I found other late-season hot spots by navigating up and down each finger, then logging down important info about its contour.

For years I have secretly pulled giant fish from these holes, but now it's time to let the cat out of the bag. Tampa, Sarasota, Boca Ciega and Clearwater bays contain numerous sites that have produced tournament-winning fish in past years. As the 10-week Suncoast Tarpon Roundup winds down, expect to find only a few seasoned anglers at these locations in hopes of a last-minute win.

Dead bait laid on the bottom seems to be the most productive method to ensure a bite. Shad, mullet, pigfish and ladyfish rank at the top of the list for great baits. These large tarpon are extremely smart, so be patient.

Heavy tackle is suggested. A 50-pound test outfit combined with a 100-pound monofilament leader is the minimum tackle suggested when trying to stop the mighty silver king in such confined quarters. Torque the drags down as tight as possible and hold on. Barnacle-encrusted pilings are the No. 1 culprit when it comes to losing a big fish. Hopefully this information will make your next tarpon excursion the day the big one didn't get away.

- Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 595-3276, or e-mail sales@jawstoo.com.

Fishing

(Phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)

UPCOMING: Thirtieth annual LOOP All Release Billfish Tournament, Aug. 9-12, Old Salt Fishing Club, Longboat Key Moorings, Longboat Key, 328-7699.

Seminars

TODAY: Fly-tying, Bill Jackson's; 576-4169.

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.

Boating

TODAY: Evening race, Clearwater, 447-6000.

TONIGHT: USF Sail Club meeting, Bayboro Campus, 821-4840.

TODAY-SUNDAY: Catalina Fleet gathering, Bradenton, (941) 795-4646.

SATURDAY: Safe-boating course, Clearwater, 462-6368.

SATURDAY: Bay race, Tampa, (813) 645-8377.

SATURDAY: Kayak demo, Sweetwaters Kayaks, Tierra Verde, 906-0708.

Etc.

DAILY: Boyd Hill Nature Park tram tour; 893-7326.

SATURDAY: Guided hike, Brooker Creek Preserve; 943-4003.

SATURDAY: Kayak outing, sponsored by Suncoast Fly Fishers, 709-4437.

SUNDAY: Bicycle ride, Pinellas Trail, Seminole City Park to Taylor Park, Suncoast Sierra Club, 392-2821.

SUNDAY: Exercise walk, Lettuce Lake Park, Tampa, (813) 920-0702.

Important phone numbers

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.

- 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.

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