Interested in catching some really big trout?
The Red Tide outbreaks in 2004 and 2005 had devastating effects on the speckled seatrout populations in Tampa Bay.
But now, after three years of recuperating, "specks" have rebounded dramatically, and the fishery is better now than before the outbreaks.
Big, yellow-mouth trout in the 20- to 25-inch range are being caught with regularity.
The Pinellas Point and Fort De Soto Park grass flats are the places to go if you're interested in getting in on some of this action.
You can get to Pinellas Point through the pink streets off Pinellas Point Drive. You can gain access to the fish at Bay Vista Park at the end of the pink streets. Parking is regulated to a degree, so check the parking signs before settling in. Also, be respectful of and courteous to the area homeowners.
If you are visiting Fort De Soto for the first time, visit the park headquarters at the intersection of Pinellas Bayway South and Anderson Boulevard (look for the big American flag). The rangers can point you in the right direction.
The most productive flats in both locations will have uniqueness to them that other flats in the area will not have.
Look for a deep-water cut, drop-off, oyster bed, or some other form of structure adjacent to the flat. In other words, find two types of structure and you will find the trout.
The best time to fish for these monsters is on the incoming tide. During the flood tide, baitfish will move up on the flat and the trout follow.
Big pinfish, grunts and scaled sardines (whitebait) are the best baits to use for trophy trout. Usually the bait can be caught right where you're going to fish. Don't waste your time or money with live shrimp; pinfish peck them to death.
Artificial baits will catch big trout, too, but you have to wade through the small fish to get to the big ones. Big, live baitfish draw in big trout, period!
The tackle is not out of the ordinary. A 7- to 8-foot rod and 10-pound test works fine, but the hook size should be adjusted according to bait size.
Typically a 1/0 or 2/0 "J" or circle hook is all that is necessary. Hooking the bait in the pectoral fins causes the bait to swim more erratically than hooking it in the nose.
The best technique when using live bait on the grass flats is to use a float. The float will keep your offering out of and above the grass, plus it's easier to keep your eye on it.
Rick Frazier runs Lucky Dawg Charters out of St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 510-4376. If you've had a great day fishing from land, contact the lubberline at (727) 893-8775 or e-mail captain