As baseball legend Dizzy Dean used to say, "Who'd of thunk it?" Despite an extended period of unseasonably warm weather, most snook still are hanging in residential canals, deeper holes and around the mouths of creeks and rivers. Pasco guide Robert McCue guesstimates that, come this weekend's full moon, the snook should at last migrate out onto the open flats where they'll find plenty to eat.
Vast schools of lunker-sized greenbacks are everywhere. And, where there's all that bait, one usually finds lots of other hungry predators, like Spanish mackerel. According to McCue, "the Spanish are all over the flats, in passes, even up in the rivers _ anywhere there's bait."
McCue also has been working the copious schools of sea trout in 5- to 7-foot grass flats north and south of Fred Howard Park. He said they're not running as large as a month ago, but anglers have been kept busy, catching and releasing plenty of small to keeper-sized fish.
This scenario appears to be the same all along the Suncoast, with brisk inshore activity anticipated for the weekend. By all rights, the arrival of spring should signal the start of the annual kingfish run. But the early, persistent warm weather has the king mackerel agenda way ahead of schedule. "My main concerns are the several tournaments coming up in April," Clearwater skipper Richard Howard said. "With water temperatures already in the mid-70s, the kings could very well be gone by tournament time."
Right now, trollers and chummers are reeling in impressive numbers of 10- to 15-pounders. "We really don't expect too many smokers," Howard said. "The bigger kings usually show up during the fall run." Howard said, however, a few kingfishers slow-trolling live baits along the beaches have been landing a good number of big guys to 35 pounds.
But all is not kingfish sweetness and light. Voracious barracuda also have shown up early, searching out their favorite entree, king mackerel. Many a frustrated angler has experienced reeling in only half a fish, with the tail section chomped off by a hungry 'cuda.
Night fishing on the Gandy Bridge has been hotter than an overheated engine, with cobia, snook, reds and even tarpon showing up along the span. But, according to Gandy Bait and Tackle's Bill Robinson, everyone seems put off by the construction barricades. "I'll bet there weren't more than five people fishing the Gandy catwalks last night," he said. So, if you don't mind lugging your tackle past the construction site, you should have access to lots of fish and plenty of elbow room.
_ Mel Berman hosts the Captain Mel Show 6-9 a.m. Saturday on WFLA-AM 970. If you have a big day fishing or a line on a story, call the Fish Fone at (813) 893-8124 or send e-mail to melcapmel.com. Web site is: http://capmel.com.