By RICK FRAZIER
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 25, 2000
Though Hurricane Debby downgraded significantly to just a very large storm, it still could be a major factor in this weekend's fishing. Listen to the meteorologists and expert officials if the storm comes our way.
If not, let the party begin. Do you want reds? Pompano? Mackerel? Grouper? Here's what I'll do. I'll suggest a few things and you go from there. How's that sound?
Tarpon. Yes, tarpon still are here in the backwater areas of the bay and can be caught with some patience and fresh mullet or shad fished on the bottom. Look for rolling fish until you find constant rollers, then bring the bait to them. Casting live pinfish or threadfins are productive, too, just be sure to cast well in front of the rollers so they see it when they come up to roll again.
Mangrove snapper are on the rock piles inside the Sunshine Skyway bridge as well as the hard edges of the ship channel. By no means are you in the middle of the shipping channel fishing for these guys. Locate the hard edges outside the marked channel. The channel is actually wider than it is marked. That's where you want to concentrate your time. Periods right before and after a tide change are the most productive. Squid, sardines and live shrimp are hard to beat.
Decent grouper bites are coming from the 70- to 90-foot range. Once you're tied off, break out the chum basket and drop a block of chum just to get things going. Cut your sardines on the angle through the stomach and get two baits instead of one. Hook one through the head and the other through the tail. Squid should be close at hand, too. The more action you get going with smaller fish, the more big ones will come investigate. Then comes the blue runner or hand-size pinfish!
Spanish mackerel are in good numbers over artificial reefs along the beaches. Small silver spoons are the key to catching a bunch of macks. They're tearing up the schools of glass minnows that are hanging around the reefs, too, a prelude to their bigger cousins.
Pompano have been a steady customer at the Gandy Bridge pilings and aren't afraid to eat a crab dropped in front of their noses. Scrape the pilings to get things fired up, then lower your fiddler. With pompano it's better to have a good current than not.
Redfish can be found along mangrove shorelines and islands in good numbers if you can sneak up on them. It's not impossible, but can be challenging. They're never in the same spot every day. They will, however, be in that same place another day. Small pinfish under a float is the way to go if you're live baiting. Gold spoons for you fakers.
Party boats on the half-day trips are catching gray snapper. Full-day trips are boating some keeper grouper and snapper. Check out the overnight and three-day cruises for good catches of grouper, snapper and amberjack.
- Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters in St. Petersburg. Call (727) 448-3817.