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Tarpon are lingering in bays, rivers


© St. Petersburg Times, published July 28, 2000

Unless someone lands a bigger fish before 6 p.m. Saturday, Rebecca Campbell's 172-pounder will win the 66th annual Suncoast Tarpon Roundup.

Campbell battled her monster during the first half of the 10-week event, when the fish were heavy with roe. Joe Lowery caught a 147-pounder Tuesday evening to take the lead in the second half.

Though we may not see the number of fish that were available earlier in the season, plenty are around, and they will stay in the area through August.

Fishing the last few hours of the incoming tide and during a major solunar period paid off for B.J. Young and his party Tuesday morning. Working a knot of fish they found west of the Sunshine Skyway bridge, they managed to jump 16 silver kings, catching and releasing eight. On a return trip that evening with similar conditions, they landed a few more, including the 147-pounder.

Many fish will filter back into the bays, bayous, rivers and harbors this time of year. The past few weeks, thunderstorms and westerly wind have forced us off the beaches to the protected waters of the bays. We landed and released three tarpon Tuesday near the mouth of the Manatee River, and trips farther up the bay have been productive.

Many tournament anglers who have qualified for the fish-off will be tight-lipped about their favorite spots. However, it's no secret that anglers on Redington Long Pier enjoy continued success, and several anglers on the Sunshine Skyway bridge have experienced had hookups this week.

With the regular division's "Finale Day" a week away, I'll be able to scout some of my favorite holes by truck to provide clues about how close to shore we may be. I'll look on the beach at Longboat Key, spend time in Sarasota Bay and take a peak in Terra Ceia. I'll search the areas around the Howard Frankland and Gandy bridges. The edges of the ship channels near Weedon Island, Port Tampa and Port Manatee are worth a look.

I'll spend an incoming tide near Egmont Key and an outgoing tide inside Pass-a-Grille. I'll catch a high change off Pinellas Point and a low one off Blind Pass. If I had more time, I'd scout spots in Clearwater Bay, then up to Honeymoon and Caladesi islands.

I bet I'll find some fish in almost all these spots. Then I'll have to decide where to fish. Who knows. We may find the one we're looking for near somebody's back yard in Boca Ciega Bay.

- Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.

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