By DAVE MISTRETTA
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 24, 2000
The perfect scenario for the next few weeks is a lull in the cold fronts moving our way so water temperatures can stabilize. If the weather gets warmer, there will be lots of action.
Kingfish have not vacated our area. Target the artificial reefs that contour the coastline. Bait fish congregate around the structures. Be sure to employ downriggers while slow-trolling for these giant mackerel because warm-water pockets are found at different depths. I don't think one bait will be better than another. Anything that wiggles will produce action.
If the fronts subside and come our way only periodically, kingfish will be in no rush to head south. Because of the mild winter last year, we were able to reach our limits easily until Christmas.
The much-anticipated migration of gag grouper should arrive this week. Depths as shallow as 20 feet will provide homes for these tasty bottom-dwellers. Not only will your favorite rock piles produce good numbers, carefully monitoring your sonar can make your day. Small herds of migrating gags will hover above hard-bottom areas. When grouper are found schooling like this, the action can be fast and furious. Have your marker jug ready to throw at any decent showing. Dead bait, such as frozen sardines and squid, will become one of the predominant baits. Earlier in the month, live pinfish, grunts and other bait fish were the key ingredients for success. Now that the water has cooled and the metabolisms of fish have slowed, a much lazier bite makes the dead bait more enticing.
You can count on amberjack, if the weather allows you to move offshore. Wrecks in 80-plus feet of water are the best. Expect the jacks to hang around for the winter because cold weather does not seem to bother them as it does other fish. Landlubbers can find winter species (whiting, drum, sheepshead and trout) active for the rest of the winter. These inshore game fish seem unfazed by cold weather and are ready to attack a hook baited with live shrimp.
-- Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 595-3276, or e-mail email@example.com.