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Captain's corner


© St. Petersburg Times, published September 17, 2000

Because tarpon are so available, they have been difficult to ignore. Though I'd packed my tarpon gear for the winter, a 16-year-old's eagerness to catch his first is all it took to break out some of it again.

The last two hours of the incoming tide, a cooler of fresh shad we cast-netted nearby and a strong back proved effective. Sunday, while fishing an area near Terra Ceia Bay that generally holds late-season silver kings, Andrew Schleissing managed to jump four and released one estimated at 110 pounds.

There still are tarpon at the Sunshine Skyway bridge, and I observed some rolling near Port Manatee. Farther up the bay, fish were seen near Gadsen Point, the G-Cut area of the ships channel and the area known as the Bootleg.

Look for tarpon to hang around until conditions, which include temperatures in their comfort zone and all their favorite entrees, change.

Bottom fishing trips produced fair catches of mangrove snapper, grouper and some better-than-average flounder. Whitebait outperformed anything else along the edges of the ship channel. While the mango bite tapered during the daylight hours of the full moon, look for them to chew better as we move further from it.

Although you'll have to share some of them with barracuda, mackerel are on the St. Pete Beach artificial reef. While most seemed more interested in the glass minnows that were abundant on the structure, we managed to catch a couple dozen while anchored and chumming with live and cut bait.

If easterly winds prevail, look for schools of mackerel to chase pods of bait closer to the beaches as the water clears.

- Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.

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