© St. Petersburg Times, published December 7, 2001
The hottest thing still going is the king mackerel action off Clearwater around the 20-foot hard bottom. Some of the better fish in the 30-plus-pound range are being taken by slow-trolling big shad. Anchoring and chumming also work. If you're having a hard time finding shad, ladyfish and mullet are good substitutes.
Grouper action is heating up closer to shore, and most anglers are starting near the 35-foot depths with good results. Gags and reds are chewing on cut bait and squid. After anchoring, it's always a good idea to lower a chum block to get things going. While grouper fishing, it's not a bad idea to throw out a flat line just in case a king swims by. Grouper also are being caught in Tampa Bay north of the Sunshine Skyway bridge. The easiest way to find grouper in the bay is to pull a big-lipped plug along the ship channel edges. Once a fish is picked up, mark it and come back with some hand-size pinfish.
There's only about a week left to get your snook before the season closes until Feb. 1. Residential canals are the best bet for linesiders. Locate dead-end canals that face north and have deep water. Finding big sailboats will help eliminate the shallow canals. These canals will have the warmest water, and you can bet the snook already will be there. Tail-hooked jumbo shrimp are hard to beat, especially since decent-size whitebait is getting harder and harder to find. Chuck your jumbo as close as possible to the docks and don't move it. Be patient, and let the shrimp do its job.
Bluefish are slamming everything thrown at them on the grass flats. Most of the fish average 2 pounds, but there are a few 4-pounders mixed in. Jigs with shad or slug-style tails work well. But for heart-stopping hits, topwater baits -- especially zigzaggers -- are the way to go.
Sheepshead are on the move. Fall and winter means plenty of big sheepshead. Most local bridges and piers will be their homes until next spring. Use plenty of crabs, oysters or barnacles. All are choice baits. Cut shrimp also will work, if the others are hard to get.
Party boats are getting decent catches of grouper and snapper on extended trips. Short trips are yielding Key West grunt, grouper and sea bass.
Local piers are getting Spanish mackerel, whiting, sheepshead, flounder and red drum.
-- Capt. Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 510-4376 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(All phone numbers begin with 727 unless noted)
TODAY: Fly-tying, Bill Jackson's, 576-4169.
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.
SATURDAY: Fly-fishing beginner's clinic, Picnic Island Park, Tampa, Tampa Bay Fly Fishing Club, (813) 655-5627.
WEDNESDAY: Fly-casting, women only, Saltwater Fly Fisherman, Clearwater, 443-5000.
THURSDAY: Winter inshore techniques with Dan Bumgarner, West Marine, St. Petersburg, 327-0072.
TONIGHT: USF Sail Club meeting, Bayboro Campus, 821-4840.
SATURDAY: Safe-boating course, Clearwater, 462-6368.
SATURDAY: Free kayak demo, Sweetwater Kayaks, Tierra Verde, 906-8387.
SATURDAY: Bay race, St. Petersburg Sailing Association, 381-6363.
TUESDAY: Safe-boating course, St. Petersburg, 898-8774.
TUESDAY: Boating seminar with Bob Jones, Boater's World, De Soto Mall, Bradenton, (941) 747-8339.
WEDNESDAY: Boating skills and seamanship course, Tampa, (813) 835-4118.
THURSDAY: Safe-boating course, Madeira Beach, 587-7873.
THURSDAY: Safe-boating course, St. Pete Beach, 867-3088.
HUNTING REGULATIONS: General gun season opens Saturday in the NW Zone; fall turkey season opens Saturday in the NW Zone..
DAILY: Boyd Hill Nature Park tram tour, 893-7326.
TODAY: Field trip, USCGCS Blackthorn Memorial, Sunshine Skyway, St. Petersburg, Clearwater Audubon Society, 712-1770.
SATURDAY: Guided hike, Brooker Creek Preserve; 943-4003.
SATURDAY: Weedon Island Preserve Guided Walk, 3 miles, reservations required, 217-7208.
SATURDAY-SUNDAY: Overnight backpacking, O'Leno State Park, for beginners, limit 10 participants, Suncaost Sierra Club, 726-8375.
SUNDAY: Exercise walk, Lettuce Lake Park, Tampa, Florida Trail Association, (813) 899-0666.
TUESDAY: Natural History Speaker Series with George Heinrich, Boyd Hill Nature Park, St. Petersburg, topic: Conserving Amphibians and Reptiles of the Southeastern U.S., 893-7326.
THURSDAY: Birding 101, West Hernando Library, S.T. Foggia Branch, Springhill, Hernando Audubon Society, (352) 592-4949.
-- 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.