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Captains corner: Flounder and grouper bites are good in right situations

Inshore: Right now, the abundance of flounder in lower Tampa Bay is as good as it gets. It's not uncommon to catch an individual bag limit of 10 per day if all the variables are in your favor. Check the edges of known rock piles by presenting live shrimp, whitebait (scaled sardines) or small pinfish on a No. 1 hook with a half-ounce slip sinker or knocker bottom rig. Most bites come right before high tide.

Mangrove snapper is another hot inshore bite right now. Bridges, piers, rock piles and deep seawalls with rocky outcroppings are all holding good numbers. To concentrate the fish, use a chum block. Don't get fooled by trying to catch all the mangrove snapper going for the chum. Target the bottom below the chum, where the bigger snapper will hang out. Use a No. 4 light circle hook with whitebait, small pinfish or shrimp. Use just enough weight to get the offering to the bottom.

Summertime usually means small speckled trout, but not this summer. Big ones in the 20- to 24-inch range are quite common. Drift the 2- to 3-foot grass flats next to a deep water channel or cut. Cork big whitebait to catch these monsters. A 2/0 bleeding-bait red hook works well.

Offshore: If you're looking for grouper, set the GPS for your favorite honey holes in the 80- to 110-foot depths. Not only are grouper inhaling just about anything put in front of them, so are amberjack and all sorts of snapper, including mangrove, red, lane, and yellowtail. Pinfish will barely make it to the bottom before getting eaten.

Kingfish, Spanish mackerel, barracuda and little tunny (bonito) are marauding baitfish schools in 60 feet of water. Trolling gold, silver or blue spoons is the easiest way to target these speedsters. Planers are a good vehicle to get the spoons down where the fish are, but don't overlook using double-swivel trolling weights to accomplish the same thing. Unlike planers and their long leaders, when using trolling leads, only use a short 6-foot leader.

Landlubber: Snook season opens again Sept. 1, and there is no better time to hone your skills in catching them than now. Head to Clearwater Beach's Pier 60 and fish when snook are most vulnerable — at night. Use a Sabiki rig to catch greenbacks (threadfin herring), grunts, pinfish or big whitebait. Use hefty gear (minimum 60-pound braid, 60-pound fluorocarbon leader) and a 5 to 7/0 carbon steel extra-sharp hook. Also, it wouldn't hurt to invest in a hoop net so you'll be able to hoist that big fish over the railing.

Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 510-4376 or captainrick@luckydawg.com.

Captains corner: Flounder and grouper bites are good in right situations 08/06/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 6, 2009 4:30am]
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