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  1. Captain's Corner: Tidal movement keys the fish bite

    Outdoors

    With the weather heating up, so is the action. We've been rewarded with numerous species of fish just about every day this past week. Fishing for red grouper 20 to 40 miles out has not been easy. However, persistency paid off, with tidal movement being the key to success. We are came off a week of strong tides, when fishing tends to be good. The new moon and the full moon phases are when these strong tide take place. These are referred to by experts as "spring tides,'' which normally last around 7-9 days. The movement gets good about three days before each one of these moon phases. Timing your trips around these good moving tide days can often make the difference. After these extreme tide phases leave us, the fish bite becomes sporadic. These tides are called "half moon" and can be trickier since the fish are not always active. Monitoring tide charts can help; patience is key. You have to know where to be and when to have lines in the water during half moon tides. Recently we were grouper fishing and it was extremely slow, with the tides barely moving. There aren't many red grouper in the shallower depths. We were two days into the half moon phase, so we expected some slow sessions. But the fish began to feed as the incoming tide began to pick up. Soon, keeper red grouper were all over the deck. We had no action for an hour before things fired up, due to the sluggish tide movement related to the half moon phase. Once that tide began to move, it was game on. Expect this week to be good but sporadic due to the half moon phase.  …

  2. From the archive: One man, a kayak, the open, angry sea — Solitude is the quest

    Outdoors

    Editor's note: This was the first of a three-part series chronicling Times outdoor writer Terry Tomalin's 75-mile journey down the west coast of Florida in a sea kayak. It appeared in print on Feb. 23, 1993. EVERGLADES CITY — The ranger appeared amused at my plan. …

  3. Captain's Corner: Trout, bluefish best action in lower Tampa Bay

    Outdoors

    The best action in lower Tampa Bay continues to be trout and bluefish. The first thing to do before fishing is keep track of the tide and weather. Extreme low tides will concentrate the trout and bluefish along the dropoff of a flat. The blues and smaller trout will be in the 3- to 4-foot range. The larger trout want to stay closer to the dropoff. They like to hang in the 1- to 2-foot range to avoid being stalked by dolphin. You won't find large numbers of trout in the shallow water, but you will have a shot at one that's more than 20 inches. Weather is a big factor when it comes to tides. Strong winds out of the north push more water out of the bay and turn a normal low tide into one that's extreme. South winds make a low tide higher than the tide chart predicted. Topwater plugs, jigs and corked shrimp are hot baits in the lower part of the bay. Work the plugs along the drop early in the day. When action slows, switch to a jig or shrimp and work the water that's 3- to 4-feet deep. Productive jig colors are strawberry, motor oil and white. When water is clear, I use motor oil. The rest of the time I use strawberry. Small jigs work well, but you might find the larger slugger jigs and jerk baits catch bigger fish. Keeping your line test under 15 pounds and your leaders under 25 increases the strike ratio. …

  4. Captain's Corner: Fishing when it gets windy

    Outdoors

    Blustery conditions are typical this time of year. The past next few days have been windy, allowing anglers to start shopping for the holiday season without missing out on great fishing. It has been a bit tough on hard-core fishermen or anyone seeking a deviation from turkey and/or planning a sea creature as an alternative for a traditional holiday meal. Strong cold fronts are a game-changer and an inevitable fact of early winter. Baitfish and other species are difficult to find after drastic weather changes in the winter. Reds are still on the flats. With stout winds, especially from the north, the bay can change dramatically. Check the tide chart before heading to an area with shallow water, even on summer tides. On extreme low tides, redfish have been bunching together in the "skinny" water. Finding potholes or depressions on the flats can be a potential scaly copper delight. It's difficult navigating the extreme shallows with conventional bay-style boats, therefore using kayaks or canoe-type crafts can be beneficial. A stealth approach can lead to numerous catches. The smaller crafts are ideal for feeder creeks and residential canals. Canals and tributaries to the bay can be fished even on gnarly, windy days. …

  5. Captain's Corner: Best time for kids

    Outdoors

    What's hot: What's the best time of day to take the kids fishing? Here are some tips. Look at the tide chart to see if we have any good tides. Tampa Bay can have one, two, three or four tides in a day. Because of the summer heat, plan to fish early in the morning, late in the afternoon or early evening — the coolest times of day. The fish on the flats will move to deeper water. Try areas like Weedon Island, Picnic Island and Simmons Park, all with snook, redfish and trout that will be on and off the flats. Also check out the artificial reefs in the bay for snapper, grouper and Spanish mackerel. …

  6. Captain's Corner: Pay attention to tides, wind direction

    Outdoors

    What's hot: Tides and wind directions are vital in March. Extreme low and high tides vary depending on the wind. North winds blow more water out of the bay. South winds push the water level higher than tide charts predict. When your tide chart says low tide will be a minus-7 and the wind is out of the north, the tide might be as low as a minus-11. Northern wind holds up the incoming tide and makes it slower than predicted. Southern wind makes the low tides higher and increases water flow during the incoming tide. …

    Doug Hemmer
  7. Captain's Corner: Target trout, bluefish

    Outdoors

    What's hot: The best action in lower Tampa Bay continues to be trout and bluefish. Extreme low tides will concentrate the trout and bluefish along the drop-off of a flat. The blues and smaller trout will be in 3-4 feet. The larger trout want to stay closer to the drop-off and in 1-2 feet to avoid dolphin.  …

    Doug Hemmer
  8. Captain's Corner: Conditions just about perfect for tarpon

    Outdoors

    What's hot: With water temperatures finally just about right, an early morning tide change and a major solunar period turned on the tarpon bite along our gulf beaches over the weekend. From Clearwater to St. Pete and all the way down to Sarasota, the reports were similar: The tarpon were chewing a variety of baits. All eight we caught Saturday morning were on fresh, dead shad presented on the bottom in front of oncoming schools. Others were throwing live baits; some with greenbacks or small crabs suspended beneath corks, some just fly-lined ahead of the bunches. With ideal weather, kayakers got in on the action, too. We observed a couple of tarpon being caught by those hearty souls off of Anna Maria. …

    Jay Mastry
  9. East Bay Fishing Report for June 6

    Sports

    Tide: The summer heat is here and the kids are out of school and wanting to catch some fish. What do you look for? The first thing I look at is the tide chart to see if we have a good tide. Tampa Bay is one of four places in the world where you can have four- tide day, and the best time to fish is often when the tide is coming in or going out.  …

    Capt. Jim Lemke for the Captain's Corner Report.
  10. East Bay fishing report

    Outdoors

    Summertime. The summer heat is here and the kids are out of school and wanting to go catch some fish, so what do you do? The first step is find a tide chart to see if we have a good tide. The reason the tide is so important is Tampa Bay can have a one-, two-, three- or four- tide day. It's one of four places in the world this happens everywhere other than those places the tide comes in and out every six hours. That is why a tide chart is so important. …

  11. Captain's Corner: Cold affects fly fishing

    Outdoors

    Repeated cold fronts: This winter has been a test for most local shallow-water fishermen, especially those using a fly rod. Most flats species engulf a shrimp impaled on a hook in front of their nose but don't expend much energy to chase a fly. …

  12. Captains corner: Low tides bunch trout, grouper at drop-offs

    Outdoors

    What's hot: When the wind blows hard out of the north, the low tide will be lower than normal. Extreme low tides push the fish off the flats and stack them in the deeper parts of the drop-off. Some of these areas will be accessible by land, so anglers can fish without getting their feet wet. One area I used to fish was the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway that runs from the south end of the Misner Bridge south to the rest area for the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Most of the fish drop into the channel 15 to 20 feet deep. This area holds trout and grouper. …

    Doug Hemmer
  13. Captain's Corner: On drum and redfish

    Outdoors

    Drumming the docks: Many rivers and residential canals systems in Tampa Bay are flooded with redfish and black drum of all sizes right now. We have been targeting them with much success fishing docks and from the south shore of Tampa Bay to the upper bay. The redfish have been 15-30 inches and provide consistent action and a tasty dinner. The black drum have been mixed in with their redfish cousins and have been in the 10- to 25-inch range with a few larger schools of 15- to 25-pound fish milling around. …

    Matt Santiago
  14. Captain's Corner: Reds trickier than trout to catch in shallow water

    Outdoors

    What's hot: During recent trips we found most of the game fish moving back to shallow water. Large schools of redfish and trout are moving into the shallows during the incoming tide. Trout are feeding better than the reds. The high tide is not high enough to make the reds feel safe. When the water is 1 to 1 1/2 feet deep, a cast close to the school will spook the reds. Trout will strike jigs and topwater plugs when the water is shallow. To get the reds to feed, we use tail-hooked shrimp on a 20-pound-test, 4-foot leader. When the school is visible, we peel the shell off the head of the shrimp to put scent in the water. This will not work if the school can't be seen. Pinfish will eat the shrimp before the redfish find it. …

  15. Captain's Corner: Baits and tides

    Outdoors

    Bait presentation: Bait presentation is key to being a consistently successful angler no matter which fish is targeted. The more natural the offering appears, the more strikes the bait will get, regardless if it is a tail-hooked live shrimp or a slow-moving artificial crawling across the bottom. If the bait appears unnatural or intrusive, forget it. One way to present your offering in the most natural way is by paying attention to moving water. Use water movement or nonmovement to your advantage. The first step is being able to read a tide chart. Knowing and recognizing the nuances of everyday tidal patterns help greatly in predicting the best time for a specific type of fishing. …

  16. Captain's Corner: Work edge of shallow-water flats

    Outdoors

    What's hot: Cooler water triggers shallow-water feeding activity. The more comfortable air temperature means good fishing can occur any time of day. Consult tide charts when planning flats trips. Snook, trout and reds all love moving water to bring food to them. The bothersome floating and suspended grass of summer is dissipating, so it's easier and productive to use artificial baits and flies now. …

  17. East Bay fishing report

    Outdoors

    Weather right: The beautiful weather we have had lately around the cold fronts has really helped to heat up the fishing. I have been seeing the best action during the warmest parts of the day and the highest parts of the tides, so refer to a good local tide chart before getting out on the water. The next few weeks should be the beginning of some really great springtime fishing. …

  18. Captain's Corner: Tracking tarpon and snook

    Outdoors

    Flyrodding snook and tarpon: Beach fishing for large tarpon has been difficult because of westerly winds. Waves and discolored water make it impossible to see fish in the shallows. Using a fly rod has not been as successful as when conditions are calm. Snook along the beaches have been challenging. But snook and smaller tarpon are available by changing tactics. …

  19. Captain's Corner: Stay patient

    Outdoors

    Drastic weather changes and strong wind events typically require a few days for action to improve. Those of us with political fatigue went fishing anyway. Redfish, grouper and a few late-season snook have been the most cooperative. …

  20. Captain's Corner: Monitor weather, tides to determine best winter inshore fishing times

    Outdoors

    Weather watch: Fishing inshore during the winter can be tough because of fluctuating weather and water conditions. Monitor weather conditions and patterns to determine the best days and times to go. Choosing areas protected from heavy wind is key. Residential canals, the lee side of mangrove islands, rivers, creeks, and protected shallow grass flats can be productive spots. Never venture into unprotected waters when conditions are deemed unsafe. …

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