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  1. Captain's Corner: Fishing by degrees

    Outdoors

    Weather conditions have been favorable for a few days. During winter, the best fishing is often when the sun gets to its highest point. Cold water will sometimes warm at the surface by 1 or 2 degrees. This is sometimes all the fish need to enhance their appetites. Another variable for successful fishing in winter is to monitor the tides closely. They always have some effect on the fishes' appetites. During winter, when water temps are down near 60 degrees, we have found that fish are more active during the slower parts of the tides. Sometimes even slack tides produce amazing bites. This past week there was awesome hog snapper fishing. Our best times to fish were during slack tides and the beginning of the incoming tide. Fast tidal movement produced some fish but it did not compare to the feeding frenzy during slower tide periods. Fish heart rates slow, so they use less energy to feed. This all adds up to a great hog snapper bite during the slower parts of the tides and even slack tide. During the past two outings, we've been filling the cooler with mid-sized snapper. The larger male hog snapper joined the feeding frenzy during the slower parts of tides movement. …

  2. Captain's Corner: Winter tips

    Outdoors

    As December ends, winter fishing is in full swing. You can catch redfish, trout, jacks, ladyfish and snook, making for great action for kids and adults. Trout are all over grass flats in 2-6 feet. Fish on the high tides on the grass flats and low tides inside creeks and channels. The best baits are whitebait, live shrimp free-lined or under a cork, or artificials like paddle or curly tails in a natural color on a jig head from a 1/32-ounce to a quarter-ounce, depending on the depth. A slow retrieval with an occasional twitch will produce the most hits. Redfish schools are around the flats in 1-2 feet, and drop to deeper holes when the tide drops. Target redfish along the grass edges, pot holes or oyster bars using shrimp, artificials or fly. With the warm weather, snook are in their winter haunts like creeks and rivers, but the bite is still going strong in our area. The bite is better later in the day after the water has warmed. …

  3. Gators hire Doug Nussmeier as offensive coordinator

    Sports

    GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Jim McElwain is adding another former Alabama assistant to his staff. Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will take the same job with Florida. …

  4. SoundCheck: Donna the Buffalo among top live music picks

    Music & Concerts

    Donna the Buffalo With Lanzallamas (Tues.), Under The Willow (Wed.) Details: Tuesday-Wednesday 8 p.m. and Jan. 1 at 6 p.m. Skipper's Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Road, Tampa. $25-$40. (813) 971-0666. …

  5. Captain's Corner: Afternoon tips

    Outdoors

    With beautiful weather ahead, tides this week will be much better in the afternoon. They barely fluctuate in the morning, but there will be a good incoming tide all afternoon. If you can't find scaled sardines for bait, shrimp has been just as productive. The best weekend bite was snook, which are bunching in their usual winter spots and eating almost everything. They are fattening up for winter — most are pretty heavy. Look for them to pile up in deeper holes and canals on low tide. As the sun rises you find them holding on the sand as they warm up. To catch a lot of fish, net scaled sardines. The trout bite is taking off. The 15-inch trout seem to be holding in about 4 feet and are pretty abundant. The 20- to 28-inch trout are stacking up in about 1-2 feet holding on the sand. …

  6. Captain's Corner: Bait tactics during roller-coaster cold fronts

    Outdoors

    We are in a roller-coaster phase of cold fronts, typical for this time of year. Focusing on water temperature combined with tides is the best way to find success. Presentation of baits can change drastically, even in the same day as the sun warms the water and encourages fish to forage for food as their metabolism increases. Trout are the main target on the north Pinellas coast. On brisk morning trips, free-lining live shrimp along the bottom in 4-6 feet has worked best. The fish require less movement to eat as the shrimp remain in the strike zone near the bottom. In the afternoon, floating baits under corks will get more aggressive strikes as the fish become more active. Redfish, black drum and sheepshead are also targets. Casting live shrimp works great, but be prepared for small feeders to pick you clean. Try artificial shrimp patterns worked slowly across the bottom. …

  7. Captain's Corner: Targeting sea trout

    Outdoors

    Speckled sea trout has long been a favorite along the west coast of Florida. Sea trout are easier to find, not as difficult to catch, and will eat just about anything thrown at them. Large gator trout, or Yellow­mouth, are starting to move into the shallow water so look for them among the mullet. Fill the well with scaled sardines by looking for clouds of bait right off the bottom. A large cast net can be hard to throw, so learn the three-part method. If throwing a cast net is not your thing, stop at a bait shop and buy a few dozen "select" shrimp. Use a popping cork to keep the baits out of the grass. Use a jig rigged with a soft plastic tail to find fish, then switch to live bait to catch the larger gator trout. Low tides in the morning will force you to start working the edges of flats, which have deeper grass flats but still enough water to provide cover until the tide comes in. Once the tide floods in, target sandy potholes, working the edges of the holes where fish are waiting to ambush baits. …

  8. Captain's Corner: Plenty to eat for anglers

    Outdoors

    Fish box trips are a great choice now. Black drum, trout, redfish, sheepshead, pompano and the occasional cobia have been giving anglers plenty to eat. Live shrimp are on everyone's diet. Black drum and sheepshead have been hanging out in the same areas: bridge pilings, dock pilings and rocky bottom areas of the bay. Drums and sheepshead look similar and fight similarly. Drums have whiskers under their chin; sheepshead do not. Both are excellent on the table, but drums I have caught recently that were heavier than 5 pounds had worms, so send the bigger ones back. On the low tides, look for redfish and trout scouring the edges of the shallow flats, tailing while looking for a morsel. These fish are not hard to catch on artificial baits such as shad tails in dark colors and a slow-sinking soft plastic shrimp. A live shrimp under a popping cork will also entice a violent strike. Pompano are all around the bridges; a slowly hopped jig tipped with a piece of shrimp will work well. Pompano are tasty and are awesome grilled. Look for cobia on the backs of schools of rays.  …

  9. Editorial: New reasons for Christmas cheer this year

    Editorials

    It can be hard to remember a Christmas not filled with anxiety, what with 13 years of America's longest war, the Great Recession and still-stumbling recovery, and political leaders who seem more fueled by division than unity. But this Christmas Day finds the nation in a brighter mood, and today's holiday offers a moment to enjoy the warmth of loved ones and cherished traditions. …

  10. Saturday's letters: A guide for Florida's newcomers

    Letters

    Bigger than N.Y. | Dec. 24 A guide for Florida's newcomers I would like to welcome the 803 new residents a day who have decided to call the Sunshine State their home. I have prepared for you a small welcome list to make you feel more at home. …

  11. Leaving Cuba: A father and son risk lives at sea

    National

    MIAMI — It was hot and dark and mosquitoes bit at his skin as 23-year-old Jose Fuente Lastre boarded a raft with eight other men, intent on fleeing Cuba. Their flimsy vessel built from scraps of metal, wood and inner tubes had failed repeatedly. Oil leaked. The propeller sputtered.  …

  12. U.S. is off war footing at year's end, but wars go on

    War

    WASHINGTON — Taking America off a permanent war footing is proving harder than President Barack Obama may have suggested.  …

  13. Captain's Corner: Cold can by productive for fly fishing

    Outdoors

    When fly fishing on weak tides and in cold weather, explore canals. The combination is not a good one, but it can be productive. An early start is usually not necessary. On sunny days, water temperature can vary considerably (as much as 10 degrees between open water and canals and backwater locations) , making a temperature gauge a necessity. Slow tidal flow means water will have an opportunity to absorb the sun's rays longer, especially over dark, soft bottoms, against seawalls, wooden structures and large wooden boat hulls. A sailboat in the back of a canal might reveal a deep-water honey hole. A creek draining into the back of a canal, especially with a spring, will be a hot spot. Fish slow and on the bottom. Floating lines will not be as productive as clear sink tips or full intermediate configurations. Use a 4-foot, 20-pound fluorocarbon leader in clear water and dark-colored weighted flies with hook points up to avoid snags. Brown/orange and black/purple can be very productive color combinations. …

  14. Captain's Corner: Cold weather means end of snook bite

    Outdoors

    The cold front has lowered water temperatures, so look for the snook bite to end while sheepshead, redfish and trout take over the spotlight. Reds seem to be the most cooperative, with a temperate feeding zone of 50 to 90 degrees. The best baits are live shrimp and, on the artificial side, swimming baits such as spoons and soft plastic shad tails. Look for reds around the deep edges of shallow flats on big negative tides and mixed with mullet on high tide. Sheepshead are hanging around docks, bridges and other structures encrusted with barnacles. For bait, a fiddler crab is rarely turned down. Big gator trout have moved to the bay's lower end and are crushing shrimp under a popping cork in potholes in 3-foot depths. Artificials are great for these not-picky eaters. Jerk worms fished around mullet schools are a big trout target. In cool water, work the bait slowly. …

  15. Treasure Island sand loss normal, experts say

    Environment

    TREASURE ISLAND — Visitors to Sunset Beach may be startled to find a large, exposed concrete and rock groin despite a $16 million beach renourishment project completed over the summer. …

  16. St. Petersburg City Council rejects Rays stadium search deal

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The stadium standoff continues. Baseball's uncertain future in Tampa Bay has grown more complicated and — if possible — more testy.  …

  17. Captain's Corner: Warming trend affects fish movement

    Outdoors

    A warming trend this week has fish moving in a transitional pattern, while live bait has been scarce after the cold fronts. Redfish have moved into many canals and bays, residing under docks through most of the tides. Live shrimp cast into the deepest part of a dock can attract a bite from redfish as well as sheepshead. Look for docks that hold larger vessels as they tend to have deeper water. Oyster bars between docks are also holding several fish. Snook are biting shrimp along the mangroves at higher tides in the backcountry. Most bites have come while floating live shrimp under a cork over the rocks and oysters lining the shoreline. Large trout had been very consistent until the most recent cold blast. They are beginning to move back to the spoil islands and flats near the main shore. Since greenbacks have been scarce, bigger shrimp under a float drifted along the spoil islands have gotten strikes, while jerkworms worked slowly over the grass flats have picked up high numbers of fish, mostly on the smaller size. During low tides, look for potholes along the edge of flats in 2-3 feet. Redfish, trout, jacks and ladyfish will often cruise the potholes while waiting for the tide to rise. …

  18. Wichita State rallies to stop Alabama upset

    Sports

    WICHITA, Kan. — Darius Carter had 16 points and the go-ahead slam with 11.9 seconds remaining to lead No. 11 Wichita State to a 53-52 victory over Alabama on Tuesday.  …

  19. USF Bulls draw big praise for hiring Tom Allen

    College

    TAMPA Willie Taggart's widely hailed home-run hire remained on an upward trajectory Tuesday, gaining more loft by the hour. Locally, former pupils and peers of Tom Allen continued trumpeting the integrity and acumen of USF's newest defensive coordinator. …

  20. Hillsborough to halt animal turn-ins while shelter gets termite treatment

    News

    TAMPA — Starting next week, Hillsborough County's animal shelter will temporarily stop taking in pets as it prepares to treat for termites. …

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