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Captain's corner


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 12, 2000

Fishing in Old Tampa Bay has really turned on in the past few weeks. Cooler weather and shorter days are telling fish winter is on the way. Fish will stuff themselves to fatten up for the winter.

For fishermen, this means the fall blitz is on. We are catching reds and snook on the flats. We are fishing the outside of the flats at lower tides and moving closer to the shoreline as the tide flows in.

Live chum is nice but not necessary. I like to free-line greenbacks or use a float. The standard float rig would be 25- to 30-pound fluorocarbon leader with a No. 2 live bait hook.

As far as artificials, it's hard to beat a 3-inch chartreuse soft plastic jig with a 1/8-ounce head. I prefer the shad shapes. Just reel them in. Most people work their jigs too much. Nothing swims like that. Just reel at a pace fast enough to keep them off the bottom and hold on.

Several times I have seen snook chasing bird shadows on the bottom. When live chumming, you want to follow birds. They will round up the fish. In this situation, it is important to pay attention so you can minimize bird hookups. If a bird is snagged, reel it in slowly and drape a towel or T-shirt over it. Cut the line, if needed, and remove it from the bird. If the bird is hooked, cut the line close to the hook and leave it in. This will leave a smaller wound and minimize the risk of infection.

A word of advice: Take the warning signs seriously on the MacDill flats. I found myself in an uncomfortable situation there the other day. Bullets were whizzing overhead and splashing into the water all around. The snook were jumping into the boat, but I did not think they were worth getting shot at for.

- Dave Walker charters out of Tampa. Call (813) 831-0355.

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