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Summer doldrums can be overcome

By PETE KATSARELIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


Summer is upon us and warm weather and water have the fish acting sluggish. Plenty of opportunities exist, however, if you find the right areas at the right times.

Offshore, grouper have pushed off to cooler water. Depths ranging from 90 to 120 feet work best. Try live pinfish or squirrelfish.

Deep wrecks and reefs should hold amberjack. Again, small live baits work best. Try rounding up large greenback or pinfish and chum the surface. Amberjack are a blast on 25-pound spinning tackle. On a recent trip to the middle grounds, we fought one for more than 30 minutes before landing the 27-pounder.

Good catches of snook and trout are being reported in Tampa Bay. Bait has been thick at the Sunshine Skyway bridge. Don't be afraid to throw the net a couple of extra times to weed out the smaller ones.

Tarpon are plentiful around bay area bridges and bite best either early in the morning or in the evening, especially on strong tidal phases. Most of these fish are large, so be prepared with a float on your anchor line and a smooth drag with a healthy capacity on your reel.

North Suncoast beaches hold good numbers of snook. The key is getting to them early in the morning. Pigfish, pinfish, large greenback or threadfin should work well. Try collecting bait at local bridges or causeways.

Whereas snook fishing has been good early in the morning, redfish seem to be best caught on strong low tides in the evenings. Locate channels, potholes or deep cuts that move into shallow flats. Try these cuts toward the end of the outgoing tide, since the lowering water levels push the fish off the flat into deeper concentrations. The strong tides and deeper, cooler waters should stimulate the reds into feeding.

If all else fails, try chumming with live greenback. These areas will produce reds and also jack, ladyfish, trout, cobia and shark. As the tide turns and starts to come in, move with it onto the shallower area of the flat. Watch for reds tailing large stingrays. Try fishing these shallow-water reds with top-water plugs, weedless gold spoons or dead ballyhoo skipped over the surface.

Summer fishing can be tough. Warmer waters slow down the fish and warmer weather wears your patience. However, if you target the right fish at the right time, you can beat the summer heat.

-- Capt. Pete Katsarelis fishes out of Tarpon Springs and can be reached at (727) 439-FISH.

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