Trout: The season for keeping trout in the South Zone is closed until Jan. 1. This is the area south of Fred Howard Park. You can still have great catch-and-release action. The best way to target the trout is to use jigs with the barbs squeezed flat. This will let you release the fish without handling it. Use a fish-out tool, slide it down to the hook and lift the trout up until it falls off the hook. When using topwater plugs, remove the front hook and squeeze down the barbs on the rear hook.
Most of the trout action will be in 2 to 4 feet of water. Look for areas where the grass has plenty of sand holes. The trout like to lie on the sandy bottom that's next to the grass. They feed best when the tide is moving. The larger trout like to hang close to shallow dropoffs. This gives them a short move to waters that are too shallow for dolphins to feed. The large trout are smart and know how to avoid predators.
Tips: It's best to drift-fish until you locate areas that hold good numbers of trout. Once located, redrift that area and concentrate on the spots that held trout on your last drift. When the water temperature is above 65 degrees, you can use a float and jig combo to help the trout locate the jig. Popping the cork lures the trout that can't see the jig.
Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 347-1389.