By ED WALKER
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 15, 2001
Depending on the outcome of the weekend weather, great fall fishing shouldn't be far behind. But if we get multiple days of heavy rain, we may be set back a week or more, waiting for the waters to settle.
Recent cooler evenings should slowly begin to lower water temperatures. A drop of just a few degrees should kick off the early fall fishing season.
The effect of cooler water can be amazing. It brings mass migrations of baitfish that, in turn, attract or stimulate a variety of gamefish.
Grouper will return from the deeper, cooler water where they spend the summer to the near-shore rocks and ledges.
Hopefully, this year's run will be strong. There have been reports from commercial fishermen that the gag grouper fishing has been off this year.
Many attribute this to the unusually cold, long winter we experienced last year. Regardless, there will be some grouper within a few miles of the coast, particularly in the northern areas of Pasco County.
Live bait is the key to catching grouper when they are in shallow water. They're much more wary at these depths and not as likely to be fooled with a chunk of dead bait on a heavy rig.
Live pinfish work well, but perhaps the best bait is a jumbo scaled sardine. These larger live baits will help eliminate bites and nibbles from small unwanted fish and help direct your fishing toward grouper only.
In deep water, most anglers anchor directly over the rocks or ledges and fish vertically.
In shallow water, this is less effective for several reasons. The fish have a greater tendency to make it under the rocks when you hook them, and they often can hear noises you make in the boat.
Try anchoring up current from the rocks and casting back toward them. Your bait should be on the sand just up tide from the rocks.
The grouper will come out to get it, giving you the advantage in the ensuing tug of war.
As you fight the fish, they kick up sand. This draws the attention of other grouper. Chumming can help lure the fish away from the rocks.
Cooler water will revive inshore flats fishing.
Snook angling will improve as they return to the mainland oyster bars, docks and creeks. Drifting live scaled sardines with the tide along these areas is the most effective method.
Snook tackle consists of a 10-14-pound spinning outfit and a 25-pound mono or flourocarbon leader.
For most whitebait, I use a 1/0. But if I happen to catch some extra large baits, I will move up to a 2/0. Hooks that are too small on bigger baits can result in missed hook-ups because the hook point turns back into the baitfish and not into the snook's mouth.
Trout and redfishing will get a lot better as we move toward fall.
Redfish gather in bigger schools and, when you find a few, there usually are more nearby. These schools will move from one area to another as they're discovered and pressured by anglers.
Stacking 3-4 boats on an oyster bar that's holding reds is a sure-fire way to send them running.
Solution? Keep your discovery to yourself if you want it to stay productive.
Redfish, trout and snook may be encountered in one spot in the fall, so those seeking the inshore grand slam have a great shot.
-- Ed Walker charters out of Palm Harbor. To contact him, call (727) 944-3474.