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Captain's corner

By TOM TURKE

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 4, 2000


Fishing is a journey of sorts, not just a destination. Imagine if all you did was catch huge fish on every cast in the same spot every time; it would be boring.

Right now, mango snapper fishing during the day has been hot. Recent trips have produced good numbers of snappers up to 20 inches. Their voracious appetites may be due to the time of the year or the recent effects of Hurricane Gordon; but one thing is for sure, they are covering many of the offshore ledges and rock piles.

It would be easy to give you the GPS numbers to some of the hot rock piles, but that would deprive you of most of the fun.

I have a technique you can use to find your own fishing spots. The technique I'll call rock-jumping involves testing a lot of bottom to locate the snapper congregation. It basically involves running from spot to spot with one person at the boat controls and at least one other at the back dropping the test bait to the bottom for a few minutes and, if no luck, quickly moving on.

The anchor never is deployed until you are sure the targeted fish are home and hungry. Start your search in about 40 feet of water and slowly work your way west, keeping one eye on the bottom machine looking for any fishing outcropping.

Any 40 feet will suffice from Anna Maria to north of Tarpon Springs; there is good rock no matter the port from which you start.

The rock-jumping or snapper-locating rig starts with a fast taper 7-foot rod with a sensitive tip. Your spinning reel should have a high gear ratio in order to reel up quickly and should be spooled to the maximum with 30-pound braided line. The braided line allows minimum line stretch and ultimate sensitivity needed to set the hook at the first sign of a nibble. Three feet of 30-pound mono leader with a 2/0 hook and 2 ounces of weight is perfect.

The bait of choice is a live-scaled sardine; the tail end of a frozen one will do if no live ones are available.

If you are persistent, your rock-jumping will pay off with a collection of new snapper spots that will produce year after year.

- Tom Turke charters the Mixed Bag out of St. Petersburg. Call (813) 854-5779 or e-mail capttomt@aol.com.

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