By DOUG HEMMER
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 11, 2000
Snook fishing along the beach is about to slow down. Large numbers will begin to stack up inside the passes, waiting to begin their fall run into Tampa Bay.
Daylight shortens in September,triggering the start of the run. In the meantime, look for schools of snook around docks, mangrove islands and oyster bars that are close to a pass. Most of the snook are eating baby threadfins, but we have had good action using artificial baits or flies that match the size of the threadfins.
The hottest artificial bait is a green or white tail-rigged slug.Use a worm hook with no weight so that theslug will float on the surface. Twitching the rod tipwill make the bait look like a ballyhoo. To snook, reds and trout, ballyhoo are like candy.
If you are lucky enough to net live ballyhoos, use these short-lived baits first. Hook through their lower jaw witha No. 1 hook and free-line so that the ballyhoo can swim on the surface. Wait until you feel a fish on the line before striking.
Tarpon have moved into the bayous and along the east side of Tampa Bay. Shad have been producing the most fish, butit is best to have a variety of live and artificial baits, plus the tackle to fish the bottom, middle and top of the water column. Some days, tarpon action is hot, and on others, all you will catch are catfish.
Redfish are still schooled up on the flats. These fish have had anglers chasing them since April, making the schoolsspooky. Idling boats and trolling motors can cause an outbreak of lockjaw. Try drifting or wading up to the mangroves during ahigh tide and working the area in front of the mangroves with a small, corked pinfish.
Grouper fishing in 80 to 100 feet of water is producing gags on the ledges and reds where the sand meets the limestone. Fishing squid first, then live pinfish, is a proven grouper recipe during the summer.
The north Sunshine Skyway pier reports catches of mackerel, small sharks and grouper. The keeper-size grouper are hittingpinfish or threadfin worked on the bottom next to the pilings. The macks and sharks will hit white bait that can be caught on gold hooks right from the bridge.
When boating along the beach,keep an eye out for flocks of birds. Large schools of baby threadfin are attracting macks, jacks, sharks and tarpon.
Find the birds and the fish won't be far off.
- Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.