By DOUG HEMMER
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 27, 2000
The water temperature is perfect for the start of the king run. Seventy-four degrees is on the upper end of the temperature zone that attracts bait fish. As long as the temperature stays above 68 degrees, the bait will stay in our area, and so will the kings, mackerel, cobia, sharks and breeder-size bull redfish that follow the baitfish migration.
Kings are traveling south from the Panhandle and will invade the Clearwater area before moving down the beach. When fishing the Clearwater area, I start at sunup and slow troll mullet, shad or threadfins over the hard bottom. If the bite is hot, we stay in that area. But when the action is slow, we head out to the Rube Allen Reef, where we like to use blue runners and the baits that are schooled over the reef. After the Rube, we head to the Blackthorn, then back to the beach for the afternoon bite. When we are having trouble finding fish, I switch to planers and spoons to cover the area faster. When the kings are found, it's time to switch back to live bait.
North Tampa Bay is starting to see a large increase in snook and redfish. Look for fish along the edges of the flats and at the mouths of rivers and creeks. Whitebait, small pinfish and shrimp are great live baits to use in this area. When using lures, it might take some time to find out what they want to strike on that particular day. You can always count on a topwater plug at sunup, but as the sun rises you will want to start trying different lures such as shad tail jigs, sluggers, crank baits and spoons. The power plants have big jacks, cobia and tarpon. The trick to fishing these areas is to not let the fish know you are there. Take the time to push-pole or drift in toward the plant, especially when there are anglers already there.
In lower Tampa Bay, huge schools of bait are being slammed by jacks, ladies and mackerel. Using jigs and spoons, we caught fish on every cast. If you want to catch only mackerel, you will need to reel the lure across the surface so fast only the mack can catch it.
The piers will start seeing their share of kings and macks. The party boats will start catching more grouper when they migrate into shallow water.
Anglers heading out for grouper in their own boat should try shallow waters first. I have heard reports of hot action in depths of 40 feet.
-- Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.