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NATURE COAST FISHING

How good the fishing is depends on whom you ask. Some anglers are finding good success, others are having difficulty.

OFFSHORE FISHING

Smaller boats have had to watch the weather and most return to shore before the usual afternoon thunderstorms. These shortened days do not allow for longer runs offshore, and as a result, fewer keeper grouper have been taken. The larger party boats, however, have been able to get out deeper and make good catches.

Thirty-hour middle-ground trips have proved successful for the Miss Virginia out of Port Richey. On its last three trips, catches of 78, 65 and 51 keeper grouper were made, several over 12 pounds.

On 8-hour day trips, the Miss Virginia has been working areas about 50 feet deep. The catches have been okay but not great in the summer heat. One surprise, however, is that grunts are very scarce.

Capt. Jim Bradley, running out to 50-foot waters off Bayport, brought back 19 grouper last Sunday and 14 more Tuesday. A surprise was finding dolphin fish in 35 feet of water.

INSHORE FISHING

Steve Vagous, fishing with David Naumann, caught a 45-pound cobia on a squirrel fish off Gulf Harbors this week, proving there still are big cobia in the area. Another pair of anglers caught and released eight cobia at the mouth of the Cotee River in Port Richey using pinfish. Cobia are best caught by using chum to draw them to an anchored boat, where a live bait suspended from a float or balloon will draw a strike.

The best fishing appears to be for reds along most of the Nature Coast. While no huge schools have been reported yet, there are many groups of 3-4 reds along oyster bars and creek mouths. The greatest concentrations seem to be in the St. Martin's Keys area off Homosassa. The standby gold spoon, shrimp, and whitebait are accounting for most strikes.

Reds also have been reported schooling around Anclote Island, particularly at the Dutchman and Sand Bay areas. They are very spooky, so being quiet is a must. Jacks are everywhere and will take most baits being used for redfish or trout.

There also are a few black drum cruising the shallows. Kenny McCLure, fishing from the banks of Crystal River with live shrimp, caught one measuring 18{ inches. Several over 40 pounds have been seen.

Trout are scarce south of the Suwannee River. Capt. Dennis Royston said trout are on the grass flats 6-8 miles off Pasco County and around Marker 10. At the Suwannee, Doc Veasey brought in 37 pounds of trout and Spanish mackerel last weekend.

Many flounder, redfish and sheepshead also are being caught on the flats. Scalloping remains good in the area, with many boats collecting their limit in about 2 hours.

Snook are still in the deeper passes by the barrier islands to the south. A few nice snook also have been taken as far north as Chassahowitzka. Capt. Everitt Antrim had a charter Wednesday that hooked many snook and landed five. Many redfish and trout to 3 pounds also were caught.

FRESHWATER FISHING

Bass fishing is steady on Lake Tarpon. Worms, spinner baits and crank baits are the hot lures, while shiner fishing is still producing. In Tarpon Tom's Tuesday evening, artificials-only bass tournament, the big bass weighed 10.4 pounds.

Lake Panasoffkee's yearling bass are everywhere and easy to catch on topwater lures like Rapalas and plastic worms. Shellcracker fishing remains good, but bluegill activity has slowed.

Lake Henderson at Inverness is still providing excellent crappie fishing even though they are not supposed to bite this time of year. A successful method is to troll small jigs.

On Lake Rousseau, fishing has been good from the river bank, with bluegill and catfish hitting well in deeper water. Bass are running 2-3 pounds.

Bigger bass have shown up on the Withlacoochee River this week. Al Payne and Dick Williams caught and released five largemouth to 8{ pounds. Gene Cooper, Chad Brown and Dave Cox each got a limit of five to 7{ pounds. Mike Graphia took an 8-pounder and Joe Rymer a 6-pounder.

Perhaps the most excited angler was 6-year-old Quinn Elliot, who tested a new rod and reel he got for his birthday and landed a 6-pound bass using a blue plastic worm.

Limits of bass also have been taken on the Suwannee River, where bream and shellcracker fishing also remain good.

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