The Tampa Bay Times
Dave Zalewski 460-9893
Schools of baitfish have finally shown up in waters as close as 3 miles and as far as 80 feet which is approximately 20 miles offshore. Many of these schools contain very small juvenile fish and it becomes necessary to “ match the hatch”, a term used by freshwater fly fisherman who make sure the fly presented to the fish they seek is the same size as the natural bait the fish are feeding on. Trolling a large spoon when the baitfish in the area are small will usually result in no strikes as the predator sees the flash of a large spoon as unnatural. When fish can be seen striking these schools, we often resort to a 00 spoon which is as small as they get and if that does not work we will try a #16 large sabiki cut down to 2 or three hooks. When resorting to the large sabiki, drags must be set loosely to prevent the hooks straightening out if a large fish such as a bonita or kingfish strikes.
Bottom fishing continues strong with red grouper, Lane, vermillion and mangrove snapper along with white grunts and triggerfish being caught on most days. The Swiss cheese hard bottom areas in 80 to 100 feet of water are the areas to target. Frozen squid and Spanish sardines work well to establish the bite. Pinfish have been hard to come by close to shore, but hardtails and Spanish sardines can usually be caught on a sabiki while bottom fishing and usually will trigger a strike from one of the larger fish in the area. Deploying two stinger rigged flatlines, one with a live bait and one with a frozen sardine which is allowed to sink down into the water column may produce a kingfish, barracuda, blackfin tuna, bonita or even a mahi mahi which may be attracted to the bottom fishing activity