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Captain's corner


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 3, 2000

Tuna, wahoo and dolphin are just 50 miles offshore, and they are hungry. Last week we fished two days in blue water and found huge weed lines starting at 50 miles offshore and continuing out to 100 miles. The loop current was 98 miles offshore and held lots of bait and debris.

The lack of major weather systems in the gulf this year has allowed tides to push sargassum weeds into some of the biggest lines I've experienced. The sargassum lines are holding lots of live bait. The wahoo were feeding on jet heads and wahoo lures with black and purple skirts. The wahoo we boated were in the mid-30s, but we lost a monster near the back of the boat when the fish cut through 400-pound leader. The blackfin tuna were feeding early and late in the day, but we also found tuna around big patches of weeds.

We troll five lines with 50-pound line and 200- to 400-pound leaders. Trolling speed varies, but 81/2 knots seems to produce most of our fish. We slowed our trolling speed to 71/2 knots when trolling ballyhoo for dolphin. Make sure when you venture offshore you leave a float plan with someone. We were fishing 60-90 miles offshore for 12 hours and didn't see another boat. You must have good equipment and be prepared for the unexpected.

On Wednesday, Mike Hubbard and I decided we needed some fresh grouper, so we left John's Pass at 6:30 a.m. and anchored over hard bottom in 95 feet. We boated seven red grouper weighing as much as 14 pounds by 9 a.m. and called it a day. The fish were feeding on frozen sardines. Our live bait was ignored. Grouper fishing has been slow lately -- you really need to get out to 80 to 110 feet and work areas that haven't been fished much.

- Larry "Huffy" Hoffman charters the Enterprise out of Kingfish Wharf, Treasure Island. Call (727) 430-3474.

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