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Fish biting onshore, offshore

© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 23, 2001

Thanksgiving week almost always is good for local fisherman. Water temperatures are in the 70s, which means fall fishing is going strong. Inshore and offshore action is very good.

Kingfish are biting from Clearwater to Sarasota. Over the next few weeks the fall kingfish run should wind down. The fastest kingfish action is on the artificial reefs in 35 to 50. Schools of the smaller "snake" kings have been feeding on the abundant threadfin herring and Spanish sardines in these areas. Pull up to bait pods and use a No. 8 sabiki rig. Slow troll these baits on a short wire leader with a stinger rig around the same area. Since most of the fish are 10 to 15 pounds, light tackle is the most exciting. Your 10-pound snook rod will work on the small kings as long as you have your reel filled with fresh line.

There are a few smokers being taken close to shore. Some of the top areas are the Sand Key hard bottom, 1.5 miles west of the condos on Sand Key; Blind Pass drop, a half-mile off Sunset Beach; and the Egmont shipping channel. Slow trolling big live baits such as menhaden (shad), ladyfish or blue runners will produce big fish, but you won't get as many bites as you will fishing for schoolies.

Grouper action is as good as it gets. Great catches have been made as shallow as 15 feet. Almost any place you can find a decent rock pile near shore may hold grouper. The traditional fall grouper spots such as Anclote Key and New Port Richey are good but get quite a bit of pressure. Some anglers have caught a lot of legal-sized grouper just offshore from unlikely places such as Madeira and Redington beaches and Caladesi Island. If you are not sure where the rocks are, try trolling a big-lipped plug while watching your bottom machine. If you get a good bite, toss a buoy to mark your spot, then try bottom fishing.

Inshore, cobia have been making an unusually strong push through our area. We have seen cobia this week on the grass flats and sand bars. Many have been more than 30 pounds. On the grass flats, they will follow stingrays. On the sand, they often are alone, looking for one of their favorite meals, small stingrays.

Trout fishing has been good north of Clearwater. Shallow-water anglers have been catching and releasing some trophy trout over shallow grassy areas. Three- to 4-pound fish have been common, with some much larger. Brian and Fred Fischer caught several specks over 6 pounds fishing near Honeymoon Island this week. All were taken on 8-pound line using soft plastic jerkbaits.

-- Ed Walker charters out of Palm Harbor. Call (727) 944-3474 or e-mail


(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)

TODAY-SATURDAY: Kingfish Turkey Tournament, Billy's Stonecrab and Seafood, Tierra Verde, 542-3900.


SATURDAY: Fly-casting, Bill Jackson's, 576-4169.

SATURDAY: Fly-casting, World Class Outfitters, (813) 968-3736.

SATURDAY: Fly-casting, Saltwater Fly Fisherman, Clearwater, 443-5000.

TUESDAY: Artificial lures with Mel Berman and Merrill Chandler, Golden Triangle Fishing Club, Tampa, (813) 935-3293.

THURSDAY: Inshore grouper fishing with Dan Hicks, West Marine, St. Petersburg, 327-0072.

UPCOMING: Winter inshore fishing with Brent Gaskill, Dec. 5, Holy Mackerel Tackle, Pinellas Park, 547-9889.

UPCOMING: Beginner's clinic for fly-fishing, Tampa Bay Fly Fishing Club, Picnic Island Park, Tampa, (813) 238-6763.


TODAY-SUNDAY: Women's Snipe Worlds Warm-up Regatta, St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 822-3873.

TONIGHT: USF Sail Club meeting, Bayboro Campus, 821-4840.

SATURDAY: Safe-boating course, Clearwater, 462-6368.

SATURDAY: Free kayak demo, Sweetwater Kayaks, Tierra Verde, 906-0708.

SATURDAY-SUNDAY: Thanksgiving Regatta, Davis Island Yacht Club, (813) 251-1158.

THURSDAY-DEC. 7: Rolex Osprey Cup, St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 822-3873.


HUNTING REGULATIONS: General gun season closes Sunday in the NW Zone; fall turkey season closes Sunday in the NW Zone.

SATURDAY: Guided hike, Brooker Creek Preserve; 943-4003.

SATURDAY: Weedon Island Preserve Guided Walk, 3 miles, reservations required, 217-7208.

WEDNESDAY: Tampa Bay Region field trip, Honeymoon Island State Preserve, Clearwater Audubon Society, 446-9367.

THURSDAY: Day hike, Morris Bridge, Wilderness Park, Florida Trail Association, (813) 935-6260.

-- See Sunday's Outdoors for a list of next week's events. Send information to Outdoors, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. All items must be typed and arrive 10 days before the event. Include event name, time, address and phone number.

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