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Guessing game blows in with cold fronts

It seems as if cold fronts only hit on weekends, just in time to ruin everybody's fishing plans.

Veteran fishing guide Everett Antrim saw it coming Friday morning and sneaked in a charter before the weather turned nasty.

"The whitebait (scaled sardines) have been pretty unpredictable to begin with," Antrim said. "The front just moves it around and makes it harder to find."

But after 25 years of fishing the waters off Hudson, Antrim knows where to look.

"It is just like following a recipe," he said. "You check one spot, then another, and just go down the list."

Antrim found his bait Friday and managed to pick up three snook before the rain hit. But what this front, and another headed this way Sunday, will do to fishing is anybody's guess.

It might be a good time to change the line on your reels and make a season's worth of stinger rigs before the kingfish arrive in force.

If you do plan to head out, finding bait will be as difficult as finding fish.

"The bait usually comes back to the same places the rock piles, the markers, any type of structure," Antrim said.

Another trick of the trade is to look for white terns, Antrim said. Terns have small beaks and can't feed on large prey such as pinfish.

"If you see terns diving, you know they are diving on schools of whitebait," he said.

If you don't know where to start looking, you might be better off bringing the fish to you. Mix up a little chum (Antrim prefers canned sardines and white bread) and start a slick.

"Get up-tide and start sprinkling a little chum at a time," Antrim said. "Sooner or later the bait will come to you."

Armed with a live well full of sardines, you'll be ready for snook, redfish or Spanish mackerel.

Trout fishing has been excellent in the past week, with several fish 6 pounds or bigger caught in local waters.

"We caught two fish that were oversized (over 24 inches) on live bait yesterday," said New Port Richey guide Mike Manning. "They were hanging out in a freshwater spring in a residential canal. The water temperature was the key."

Antrim frequently fishes offshore springs in 6 to 8 feet of water.

"The water temperature is always 72 degrees and fish like that when the other water gets too cold or too hot," he said. "One spring might hold trout and another a mile away might be holding Spanish mackerel."

Antrim suggests anglers look for water bubbling on the surface.

Head a little further out, in 15 feet of water or so, and fish the rock piles for grouper.

"Make friends with a shrimper because they know where all the rocks are," he said. "They stay clear of them because they will snag the nets."

Any structure will attract bait and bait will attract predators such as kingfish and Spanish mackerel.

Antrim suggests trying some of the offshore artificial reefs such as Pasco 1 or Pasco 2.

"I like to use light tackle for mackerel, 6- to 8-pound test, and a thin wire leader," he said. "Don't use a float, just freeline the bait."

If you have never fished for Spanish mackerel before, get yourself some chum bags and anchor up in 6 to 8 feet of water.

"It won't take long before the fish come to you," he said.

The weather also has put kingfish on the move. Anglers 30 miles off of Bayport report skyrocketing kings as far as the eye can see.