Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Outdoors

Captain's Corner: To the Keys and back

Having just returned from an eight-day fishin' mission to Marathon in the Florida Keys reminds us we, too, live in paradise and there's no place like home. On preplanned trips, play the hand that's dealt. We got eight days of relentless winds and rough seas. We uncomfortably managed to pound offshore for a couple of days and were rewarded with some mahi in 700 feet — the largest was 32 pounds — and blackfin tuna at the Marathon Humps. When we couldn't get outside the reef line we managed some snapper. At night we jumped and let some tarpon go in Vaca Cut Key. Each year when we return from the Keys we "wreck" mangrove snapper in Tampa Bay. Whitebait on many area flats are perfect size and can be easily gathered with quarter-inch mesh cast net. Though they have been remarkably consistent all year, now is when mangrove snapper traditionally stack up on reefs, rock piles, and rock-laden edges of the ships channel from the mouth of Tampa Bay to miles inside. Tarpon have seemingly taken a temporary hiatus from many of their late season gathering spots. A rather abrupt seven-degree drop in water temperature after rain hasn't been to their liking. They'll be back when it heats up. In years past, we've wrestled with them through this month and into next.

Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.

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