By DAVE MISTRETTA
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 8, 2000
Giant schools of Spanish sardines and cigar minnows are working their way closer to shore.
In past weeks, these massive herds of bait were settled in 100 feet of water, allowing limits of grouper to be met easily.
The game plan was to drift over the bait stacks that smothered the bottom, pulling up giant red grouper that lingered close by. This week I located the bait schools in 80 feet and sure enough the red grouper followed their food source into the more shallow depths. As the month progresses, plan to locate all the sardines your bait wells can hold near the 10-mile artificial reefs.
These tasty bait fish will move in even closer, settling over these structures until early winter. This annual migration is on schedule -- a prelude to the first push of kingfish that soon will arrive in our area.
Rough sea conditions forced me to stay close to shore earlier this week. What I found was a surprising number of gag grouper hiding in the shallow rocks and ledges about 3 miles out.
While targeting gags, we've also enjoyed the added surprise of giant bull reds, sharks and cobia -- just another indication fall is near.
Every day the passes and inlets become more interesting. Spanish mackerel are working small glass minnows into the bays, allowing landlubbers to score on the action from sea walls and bridges.
A small spoon or white jig will ensure the best results by simply tossing the lures directly into the glass minnows, then retrieving back at high speed. Oversized jack crevalles have joined the party, adding an extra thrill to your cast. These scrappy fighters are pound for pound one of the toughest fish you'll ever fight. Table fare is poor, so catch and release is advised.
The bottom line is that you don't know what will grab your bait with all the fish moving around.
- Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 595-3276.
SATURDAY: Fly-casting clinic, 10 a.m., Bill Jackson's, U.S. 19 N; (727) 576-4169. SATURDAY: Fly-casting clinic, 10 a.m., World Class Outfitters, 13911 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; (813) 968-3736. SATURDAY: Fly-casting clinic, women only at 11:30 a.m., coed at 12:30 p.m., Saltwater Fly Fisherman, Clearwater; (727) 443-5000. SATURDAY: 12th Alafia River catfish tournament, Williams Park, U.S. 41 S, just north of the Alafia River bridge, Riverview. Participants may sign up the day of the tournament, weigh-in 7-10 a.m., bait will be sold at park; (813) 671-6144.