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Captain's corner

By DOUG HEMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 25, 2000


Large schools of gator trout are making their way through the passes looking for anything that resembles a bait fish.

The schools are striking just about anything thrown their way. They are feeding the hardest when there's a good flow of water.

Most of the schools are in the Intracoastal Waterway, but look for the trout to be moving onto the flats as the temperature drops.

Last week, we fished the middle of the grass flats using corked shrimp and root beer-colored jigs. The action was good, but the size of the fish was disappointing.

We started looking for trout closer to the beaches by working the edges of the flats that were holding schools of minnows. It didn't take long to find the big fish.

Trout 18 to 24 inches started nailing the float with a jig combination. The anglers who popped their corks the hardest caught the biggest trout.

When the action slowed, we would drive around looking for flocks of birds that would give away the bait schools. One flat had a school of trout so big the water rippled for over 100 yards.

Most trout tackle is rigged with braided line so you can feel the thump of a fish when it strikes the lure. It also can help you cast farther with less chance of getting wind knots.

The mono rigs are in the 6- to 8-pound class. Small pinfish or whitebait will last longer than shrimp if the area you are fishing is infested with pinfish.

Fish the same areas during sunup or sundown using a topwater plug. Working a plug across the surface during low light will provide your best opportunity for landing a trout of more than 24 inches.

- Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.

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