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Offshore trips produce surprises; tarpon roam the beaches

This time of year can be full of surprises if you're venturing offshore.

Just a few days ago we landed a giant sailfish about 40 miles out. Our plan was to troll over deep-water wrecks, in search of kingfish, bonito, barracuda or anything else willing to bite. The kingfish are normally huge this time of year, many of them large females, weighing more than 35 pounds. Our reels were filled with new 20-pound monofilament in preparations for a giant mackerel running out lots of line.

The sailfish grabbed the live cigar minnow and headed for Mexico. After a spectacular aerial show, the fish was boatside for a short photo session. We estimated the fish at about 70 pounds and released it 1 mile from where it grabbed the bait.

We trolled back over to the wreck, catching a kingfish and numerous barracuda. A school of late-season cobias became curious and followed a barracuda to the boat. Within seconds we had two of the bigger fish hooked at the same time. The anglers ended up holding two 30-plus-pounders together for a photo.

We began to catch large bonito and immediately dropped a couple down over the wreck hoping for something big. In a matter of seconds a goliath grouper (we assumed) grabbed the bonito and headed for the wreck. Another bonito was sent down, and it too was devoured and taken into the wreck. These giant fish did get away, but it wasn't too heartbreaking.

We have also seen some big whale sharks roaming around some of the deep-water wrecks. They are quite impressive to watch. Wrecks holding juvenile bait schools seem to be the best thing to attract these 30-plus-foot sharks.

This weekend we will target snapper during the full-moon phase. They are fattening up for their annual spawn. It's common to have a tremendous bite during the incoming tide, which coincides with the setting sun. As soon as darkness sets in the moon rises, keeping the snapper active. There will also be a major lunar period a few hours into the rising moon.

Tarpon are still available along the beaches. Anglers anchoring and tossing live baits have been producing some fish. It's also a good idea to toss a few dead shad or ladyfish on the bottom. Not only will the tarpon grab the bottom baits, but sharks will often eat them too. We have even caught some huge snook on the dead baits.

Some days are slower than others because the tarpon are on the move most of the time. It seems as if there will be two or three days in a row of good fishing, then two or three days of slower action. The slower days are usually related to the tides. Slower tide days don't produce near the action as the swifter moving tides.

Dave Mistretta captains the Jaws Too out of Indian Rocks Beach. Call (727) 595-3276, e-mail [email protected] or see www.jawstoo.com.

Offshore trips produce surprises; tarpon roam the beaches 08/14/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 11:30am]
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