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Kingfish are taking the bait


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 3, 2000

Finally, kingfish have come back to Tampa Bay. They also are thick in the gulf along the artificial reefs and hard-bottom areas that are close to shore.

Spoons and big-lipped plugs are the favorite artificials. Rig the lure 20-30 feet behind a No. 2 or No. 3 planer.

Kingfish bait was once hard to get if you were not able to throw a bait net. Now, with more sophisticated bait-catching rigs on the market, everyone has a fair chance of getting bait. Bridges, channel markers and piers are favorite hangouts for threadfins, bluerunners, cigar minnows and sardines.

Don't forget that grouper also are active this time of year. With the water temperature dropping, gags and reds are moving in closer and are starting to show in depths of 30-40 feet. After anchoring, use a weighted chum basket and drop it to get things primed. Cut sardines and squid are favorite baits with which to start. After things start to slow with the dead stuff, drop a fat bluerunner, pinfish or threadfin.

Snook have entered the canals and rivers, where they will spend the cold nights of winter and spring. Dead-end canals that face north are the warmest. The linesiders will hang out beneath big boats. Heavy tackle is a must. Braided spectra lines are a premium choice. Free-lined threadfins, pinfish, pigfish and select shrimp work well. Jigs are the best artificial bait. Use the lightest head and thread on a motor-oil slug or split-tail body and work it slowly along the bottom.

Speckled trout are chewing up jigs, crankbaits, live shrimp and white bait on the deeper grass flats. Target the 4- to 5-foot areas with thick grass and plenty of water flow. Flats that run next to a channel are prime locations. Start upwind and drift with the wind until you find a good hole, then drop the anchor and work that spot. Motor-oil and strawberry are favorite colors for artificials.

Sheepshead are back on the prowl again around the bridges and pilings. Work the down-current side of the pilings with cut shrimp, fiddler crabs, oysters or barnacles.

Landlubbers should head to the Sunshine Skyway, Redington or Potter piers for great Spanish mackerel action.

Party boats are reporting catches of grunts and some keeper grouper on the half-day charters. Better catches of grouper and snapper are coming off the overnight and extended three-day trips.

- Captain Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters in St. Petersburg, (727)448-3817, or email

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