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Captain's corner

By ED WALKER

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 18, 2000


As the days get shorter and evenings start to cool, water temperatures slowly start to drop. Even without a cold front, fall fishing is creeping in.

Fishing both inshore and offshore will pick up dramatically in the next month as the hot, stagnant water gives way to cooler, more stimulating conditions.

I am looking forward to the return of the gag grouper to the shallow near-shore rocks. This is not the style of fishing most people associate with grouper. I prefer to anchor up-current of the rock piles, which are usually visible from the surface. Next we chum with big, live whitebaits.

As the grouper start to feed, they come to the surface smashing the wounded chummers. The key to getting them fired up is to not fish when you see the first couple of charging grouper. Let them get excited. This can be the hardest part.

When the time is right, cast a 30- to 40-pound spinning rod with a live bait into the frenzy. For leader, use 3 feet of 80-pound monofilament and no weight. The grouper will take the bait off the surface. The higher in the water you hook them, the better your chances of landing them, so stay as light as possible.

Double and triple hookups are the norm. If mackerel become a problem, which they often do, add a 2-ounce weight to get below them.

Trial and error is how I found most of my favorite rocks. Don't bother trying spots where you see others fishing. You will very seldom find this kind of action on a spot that gets fished regularly.

-- Ed Walker charters out of Palm Harbor. Call (727) 944-3474.

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