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NATURE COAST FISHING

The quarter moon has brought weak tides and kept inshore fishing relatively slow. Sunday's full moon should produce good water flow and crank up the appetites. Offshore, the cold front that arrived Thursday stirred up 4-6-foot seas, but look for the gulf to calm again by the first of the week.

OFFSHORE FISHING

Before the front, pods of greenbacks, pilchards and Spanish sardines covered the reefs and rock piles in exceptionally clear water. King and Spanish mackerel have been gorging themselves and bending many a rod. Most of the kingfish have been schoolies of 10 to 15 pounds, but Mark Bennett led an angler to a 50-inch, 30-pound king on a recent trip to 30 feet.

Off Inglis, Ky Lewis has led anglers to limit catches of black grouper by trolling plugs and bucktail jigs from 5 to 12 miles off the Florida State Barge Canal. Working also over the canal's near-shore edges, Lewis reports several grouper following each hooked fish to the boat.

Shallow-water grouper action continues from Homosassa to Bayport. Live pilchards and sardines fished in water as shallow as 7 to 10 feet are producing keepers on small patchy rock piles. Spanish mackerel also are thick over the near-shore rocks.

Off Crystal River, the Apollo's 8-hour trips have been averaging 25 to 30 black grouper up to 18 pounds along with plenty of seabass taken on cut squid and threadfin herring. The Miss Virginia reported a slow week with all-day trips averaging 10 to 15 keeper black grouper off Port Richey.

INSHORE FISHING

Bountiful bait schools have Spanish mackerel feeding heavily over deep grassflats near Anclote Island. These spirited fighters are a blast on light tackle. Just remember your wire leader.

Snook action is improving from the Anclote River to Chassahowitzka as the fish become more confident with the early spring warmth and move farther into the bays and estuaries. Live pilchards are the preferred bait.

Gunner Gause recently caught six snook up to 37 inches and a 20-inch doormat flounder on live pilchards near the Anclote River.

Gause also has fared well with the hordes of cobia patrolling coastal flats in 3-4 feet of water. Ranging from 10-25 pounds with a few hogs pushing 50, the fish are following bottom-feeding stingrays in hopes of picking off a free meal. On an incoming tide, work closer to shore. Outgoing and low tides, move offshore a couple of miles.

Roger Gibson led a party to good catches of trout off Port Richey. Most are 20-22 inches, with one whopper yellowmouth weighing 4 pounds. Gibson also has found redfish and lots of small snook around the mouth of the Cotee River.

Fishing from New Port Richey to Chassahowitzka, Rob McCue has found consistent snook action inside and around the outskirts of coastal creeks and residential canals. Most are smaller fish, but one weighed just under 12 pounds. With the full moon, the fish should begin their final move out of these waterways.

FRESHWATER FISHING

Largemouth bass in most areas are completing their spawn and starting to feed heavily. Artificials like white and chartreuse spinnerbaits and rubber worms are working well. With worms, use light colors like Plum Crazy in clear water and dark colors like Red Shad in stained water.

Look for dropoffs and work artificials from shallow to deep water. Also, key in on open-water structure like hydrilla grass in 4-6 feet. Natural-bait anglers have found dead shiners more productive.

Lake Helen and Moon Lake have been producing well. Ed Stoddard caught an 8-pound, 7-ounce bass on a spinnerbait.

The Withlacoochee River's bass action remains good. Look for shoreline structure where swirling eddies form on the down-current side. Lake Panasoffkee is still producing good numbers of keepers for anglers flipping with rubber worms and crawdads in the sawgrass.

Bass fishing has been slow in the Tsala Apopka chain, but panfish anglers are catching up to 20 shellcracker a day on wiggler worms in about 10 feet of water. Missouri minnows are catching a few bedding speckled perch in the lilly pads.

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