By DAVE MISTRETTA
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 18, 2000
There are only about six weeks before things begin to cool down. Water temperatures will fall to the 70s, forcing fish into a feeding frenzy.
During these hot summer days, I dream of what's to come: giant king mackerel, skyrocketing schools of threadfin herring, gag grouper bundling up on shallow rock piles and schools of cobia migrating down the coastline.
The fact is, it's August, it's hot and the bite has been slow.
Offshore, the grouper action has declined, forcing me to mix it up a little. I'll fish the early morning and late afternoon tides for the best results. During midday, it's as if the grouper take a siesta, having no interest in food. This is when I'll head to the artificial reefs in search of barracuda. A live blue runner slow-trolled over structure will entice even the most finicky fish. In the weeks to come, expect the mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel to arrive in greater numbers, adding more excitement to the offshore action.
Many of the major passes are holding fish near the bridges. Giant drum -- some more than 40 pounds -- are chewing blue crabs placed adjacent to the bridge fenders. A live pilchard or grunt has been the bait of choice for Kevin Walker and his two sons while fishing at Clearwater Pass. Their technique does not require a boat. Simply walk a free-lined bait along the shoreline of the pass and follow the current. The outgoing tide seems to work best, flushing thousands of baitfish into the gulf. This will lure some hefty snook from the bridge to feed. Untra-light tackle can be used, making the battle more exciting. The experience of a 20-plus-pounder on a 10-pound line is a memory anyone can savor. Just ask the Walker family.
NOTE: Officer Marvin Crumbliss of the Florida Marine Patrol has been ticketing boaters during evening hours for navigating the Intracoastal Waterway without running lights. The overwhelming amount of citations is a concern, since one boater's lack of regard is a hazard to many others. Strict enforcement of boat safety can be expected because of the heavy traffic each summer.