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Small baits bringing big fish close to the beach


© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 31, 2001

Plenty of 1- to 2-pound Spanish mackerel have been caught within a few hundred yards of the beaches, with massive schools of glass minnows luring them close. Tarpon also have joined the minnow ambush, inhaling large mouthfuls. Those fishing from shore have been able to witness this feeding frenzy as schools of frantic minnows literally are jumping onto the beach. Indian Rocks to Redington Beach is holding hundreds of tarpon, but getting one to eat is a task. A small whitebait seems to be the only thing that will lure the poons away from the minnows.

Bigger macks can be found farther offshore around artificial reefs. They've teamed with little tunny (commonly called bonito) and are ravaging schools of threadfin herring and Spanish sardines. The macks are averaging 3 pounds, providing anglers with a hefty bag of fillets. The limit on Spanish mackerel is 10 per person, more than enough since macks do not freeze well.

Don't try bonito -- the meat is bitter, bloody and tough -- but barracuda don't seem to mind the taste. I've seen numerous 'cudas this week attack a bonito on a line. After one such attack we used the remaining half as bait and caught a barracuda of at least 50 pounds. It measured 68 inches, one of the largest my clients have landed.

Farther offshore, fishing remains spotty. Grouper action is slow unless you travel to 100 feet. Even there it's not impressive, but there are enough red grouper if you work the edges of the limestone that meets the sand bottom. Be sure to throw out a flat line: We caught a variety of pelagic species this week by free-lining sardines. The most impressive score was a small sailfish.

The annual southward migration of cobia has started. A 62-pounder was the biggest brought to the boat. It was loitering near the surface over a wreck about 35 miles offshore and ate a porgy. -- Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 595-3276, or e-mail



(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)

REGULATIONS: Snook season opens Saturday.

SUNDAY: Tampa Pro Bass Fall Tournament Series, Lake Pierce, Cherry Pocket Fish Camp, 789-0525.

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

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: 13th annual Alafia River Catfish Tournament, Sept. 8, Williams Park, Tampa, (813) 671-6144.


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.


TONIGHT: Evening race, Clearwater Yacht Club, 447-6000.

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

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

SATURDAY: Discover sailing, Clearwater Community Center, Clearwater, session consists of four Saturdays, 462-6368.


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.

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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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