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Cast early and often

By RICK FRAZIER

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 17, 2001


The dog days of summer are here. High heat, humidity and afternoon thunderstorms dictate early starts for inshore and offshore anglers.

The dog days of summer are here. High heat, humidity and afternoon thunderstorms dictate early starts for inshore and offshore anglers.

With the grass flats heating up to the 90s in the afternoon, it is best to be off the water by noon. Big trout are slamming topwater baits just as the sun starts to rise. Look for shallow, flat areas that are close to deep water. Early in the morning, when the water is a little cooler, the big fish will hang in the shallows. Work places that are not more than thigh deep.

Mangrove snapper are on rock piles and ship channel edges. They are easily fooled if you use the right tackle. Twenty-pound, fluorocarbon leader will do the job along with a slip sinker rig. Use just enough weight to keep your bait in the zone and tie on a No. 1 or 2 hook. Squid, shrimp and whitebait are effective, especially if you target the time around a slack tide.

Small shovelnose and blacktip sharks are on the prowl inshore. They're easily spotted cruising the grass flats looking for an easy meal. Most of these sharks are in the 3- to 10-pound range and are a blast when they're caught on light tackle. Use a long-shank No. 1 hook baited with squid, shrimp, sardines or cut bait. These toothy critters aren't picky, so the bait doesn't really matter. It is a good idea to set out a chum bag to draw a host of them in. Put your offering under a float to keep it out of the grass.

Red grouper can be found southwest of Egmont in 90- to 100-foot depths. The bottom structure out there is mainly limestone, which is the preferred habitat for these fish. The lighter the tackle, the better. Most of the time, 30-pound main line and 50-pound leader will get the job done. Hook size is usually a matter of bait size, but a 5/0 is a good place to start. Once you get anchored, drop your chum basket to let them know you're there. Squid and sardines are the norm until the bite drops off. Then it's time for live pinfish.

Half-day party boats are getting a variety of bottom feeders such as triggerfish, black sea bass and Key West grunt. Pier action is especially good at night.

-- Capt. Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 510-4376 or by e-mail at captrick@luckydawg.com.

Fishing

(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)

TODAY: Tenth annual Tuna, Wahoo, Dolphin Shootout, Gators on the Pass, Treasure Island, Treasure Island Charities, 363-0071.

UPCOMING: Eighth annual Bill Currie Jr. Fall Ladies Classic, Sept. 7-8, Tierra Verde Resort, Tierra Verde, benefits All Children Hospital, (813) 554-5342.

UPCOMING: Thirteenth annual Alafia River Catfish Tournament, Sept. 8, Williams Park, Tampa, (813) 671-6144.

UPCOMING: Monthlong snook tournament, September, Hurricane Pass Anglers Club, Ozona, 785-3018.

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, Clearwater, 443-5000.

Boating

TONIGHT: Evening race, Clearwater, 447-6000.

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

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

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: APBA Offshore National Championships, planning meeting Aug. 29, Hilton, St. Petersburg, 823-RACE.

Etc.

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

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

SATURDAY: Weedon Island Preserve guided walk, 3 miles, reservations required, 217-7208.

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

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: Great Bay Scallop Search, Aug. 25, Fort De Soto Boat Ramp, St. Petersburg, boat captains and snorkelers needed, Tampa BayWatch, 896-5320.

Important phone numbers

STATE FISHING AND HUNTING REGULATIONS: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Southwest Region (Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties): (863) 648-3206; North Central Region (Citrus and Hernando counties): (904) 758-0525; or floridaconservation.org.

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- 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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