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I can't remember when kingfishing has been any better than this week. Incited by strong tides associated with today's full moon, smoker kings ravaged baits as long as we offered them.
Packed in an area north of Indian Rocks and within 2 miles of the beach, most were between 20 and 30 pounds, and a couple were in the 40-pound range. All were hooked on shad, but others around us did well using large whitebait, greenbacks and ladyfish.
While many of the traditional south county hot spots seem adversely affected by the nagging Red Tide, look for action to stay fast and furious until the inevitable cold fronts plummet water temperature into the low 60s on the northern end.
If you've lost interest in catching kings, grouper fishing is a good alternative. It is time to check hard-bottom inshore areas, and if you don't have specific rock piles or ledges to anchor on, trolling deep diving plugs is the best way to find some.
Mangrove snapper action has heated up in Tampa Bay. Whitebait is my first choice, but if you want to catch some of the sheepshead and Key West grunts that are hanging around with them, it's better to use shrimp.
The edges of the shipping channel have been productive, but don't overlook the many artificial reefs inside the bay.
Pack a bottom rod if you are going to anchor while kingfishing. Recently, we've been rocked by a grouper or two each trip, but you don't stand much of a chance on 16-pound test. Cobia have made guest appearances in our chum line nearly every trip, as well. Flounder are showing up in decent numbers, and Tuesday we caught a couple on cut bait while bottom fishing between kingfish bites.
-- Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.
(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)
MONDAY: West Coast Fly Fishing Club monthly meeting, St. Thomas Aquinas Church, New Port Richey, 856-8116.
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: Winter techniques for catching snook, trout and redfish with Jack Hartman, Boater's World, De Soto Mall, Bradenton, (941) 747-8339.
WEDNESDAY: Winter inshore fishing with Brent Gaskill, Holy Mackerel Tackle, Pinellas Park, 547-9889.
WEDNESDAY: Inshore and flats techniques with Ray Markham, Minnows and Monsters Tackle, Tampa, (813) 835-1512.
THURSDAY: Learn from the experts seminar by Sport Fishing magazine, Tampa's Hillsborough Community College/Dale Mabry campus in the student services building, (888) 281-5720, ext. 1308.
FRIDAY: Fly-tying, Bill Jackson's, 576-4169.
TODAY-FRIDAY: Rolex Osprey Cup, St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 822-3873.
TONIGHT: USF Sail Club meeting, Bayboro Campus, 821-4840.
SATURDAY: Safe-boating course, Clearwater, 462-6368.
SATURDAY: Fall Invitational Regatta and J/24 races, Davis Island Yacht Club, Tampa, (813) 251-1158.
SATURDAY: Guided hike, Brooker Creek Preserve; 943-4003.
SATURDAY: Weedon Island Preserve guided walk, 3 miles, reservations required, 217-7208.
SATURDAY: Manatee benefit, Casey Key Fish House, Blackburn Point Road, Osprey, Mote Marine Laboratory, (941) 388-4441, ext. 446.
MONDAY: Public educational program, topic: Rural and Family Lands Protection Act, Clearwater Audubon Society, 771-7385.
WEDNESDAY: Adult community lecture, topic: Return of the Red Snapper, Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota, (941) 388-4441, ext. 229.
-- 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.