Thursday, February 22, 2018
Outdoors

Captain's Corner: Mangrove snapper putting on a show

Mangrove snapper fishing continues to be outstanding and producing some of the largest fish in years. It's a spectacular show to see 5- to 8-pound mangos on the surface chasing pilchards around in 100 feet of water. Chumming is the key to getting these bottom fish to rise from the depths. Anchor up-current if the tide is running or right over it if the tide is slack. The second key is (and this might hurt a bit) not fishing the spot right away. Start a slow chunk of tiny pieces of sardines at a rate of one chunk every 15-30 seconds to create a "ladder" of food from the bottom to the surface. After the mangos are in sight keep the chumming rate the same but deploy fewer baits. Rig with 20- to 25-pound fluorocarbon leaders and small hooks in the 2/0-3/0 range with no lead or swivel. Hide the hook in a similar size bait and try to mimic the same rate of fall as the rest of the chum pieces. When the line jumps, close your bail and get tight. If you have a well full of pilchards this is the time to let a few free swimmers go. A few late-season cold fronts have kept the main body of king mackerel to the south but with a warm week ahead we could see an influx by the end of the week. Look for smaller fish in the 6- to 12-pound class in areas such as the shipping channel and the "anchorage." Live baits such as Spanish sardines and cigar minnows can be caught on the buoys in the channel and are the bait of choice for these fish. Small stinger rigs slow-trolled at 1-2 knots around these same markers will get bites. Blackfin tuna are on the way and can be caught around larger structures offshore in the 120- to 150-foot depths. Although it will never be a guarantee finding them offshore a few things can increase your odds. First, be aware of water temperatures in the areas you are fishing. I typically check a few online sources that give water temps offshore, then pick wrecks and springs in those areas. Second, get up early and secure a overflowing well of pilchards which will assist in chumming these fish to the boat. When you chum with dead baits they fall to the bottom, but when you "live chum" your footprint could grow to a half mile in every direction when the pilchards swim away from the boat. You will catch bonita at first but if you stay you should be rewarded with tuna.

Steve Papen charters out of Indian Shores and can be reached at (727) 642-3411 and fintasticinc.com.

Comments

Captainís Corner: Rising temperatures fire up the bite

With no cold fronts rolling into the bay area soon, it also means water temperatures are on the rise to the mid 70s. That has the bite fired up inshore and nearshore. Snook fishing is on fire with these warmer temperatures at night. Weíve been findin...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Captainís Corner: Warming waters, better visibility are good signs

Scuba and freediving spearfishermen and women have enjoyed great underwater visibility over the past week. Some boaters going offshore can make out the bottom structure from the gunnel of the boat. Best depths for visibility have been in 30 to 40 fee...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/19/18

Captainís Corner: Flats coming to life in north Pinellas County

The flats are really coming to life in north Pinellas County. Our main focus this time of year is spotted sea trout, though redfish are cooperating and schooling a bit. Snook are also responding to the warm weather, occasionally eating on the falling...
Published: 02/18/18

Captainís Corner: Bait a challenge, but effort will pay off

Bait has made its way into the bay and is on nearly every marker. The problem: Bait is moving and showing up at different times daily. The time spent to get bait will pay off. Fish have been blasting pilchards. Snook and large trout have been communi...
Published: 02/16/18
Updated: 02/17/18

Captainís Corner: Springtime fishing patterns moving in

The first half of February has been hit or miss for inshore fishing. The consistent cold fronts and warmups seem to have the fish confused. The week ahead should be pretty good. The best bite has been midmorning into the afternoon. With temperatures ...
Published: 02/14/18
Updated: 02/15/18

Captainís Corner: Get an early start when chasing redfish

Redfish schools have started to invade the flats around Pinellas Point. On low tide in the morning, I look for a school on an outer sandbar. These fish are staged on the edge waiting for the tide to come in. Once the water level rises, the fish will ...
Published: 02/13/18

Captainís Corner: Baitfish in the shallows improves fly fishing

Seeing large groups of pelicans diving and catching baitfish in warmer, shallow water is a sure sign spring conditions are approaching. The appearance of quality baitfish will spark a feeding frenzy that should steadily improve flats fishing for fly ...
Published: 02/14/18
Updated: 02/16/18

Captainís Corner: Action picking up as temperature rises

The wind finally stopped blowing so hard that we couldnít go offshore. Water temperatures were still in the low 50s offshore at the beginning of the week, and this affected fish behavior. Because the water was calm, we ventured out to the 80- to 90-f...
Published: 02/11/18
Updated: 02/12/18

Captainís Corner: Topwater plugs a great option as warming trend continues

Warm weather for the past week has led to an increase in feeding activity for inshore fish species. Speckled trout have been venturing out of deep holes and channels and back into shallow water to feed. This has presented a great opportunity to fish ...
Published: 02/10/18
Updated: 02/11/18

Captainís Corner: Sardines make a great bait

Bait has made its way into the bay and the fish have been eating sardines with violent strikes. Look deep for bait, most of it has been in 20-plus feet of water. A little knowledge of how to read a bottom machine will help you secure the prized sardi...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/10/18