A mild front that ambled through this past week brought cooler temperatures and plenty of sailboat fuel. Seas were rough, but should become calmer for the weekend. Inshore, the water continues to warm, but clarity remains a concern in many areas.
OFFSHORE: Kingfish anglers will be plowing the waters today and Sunday during the Tarpon Springs kingfish tournament. There are plenty of fish in the area, but rough seas have stirred the water so the kings are scattered.
Most offshore reefs and rocky ledges holding baitfish schools are kingfish havens. The Pasco County reefs, particularly No. 2, have been consistent producers. Best bet is to locate a structure, deploy frozen chum blocks and/or a menhaden oil dripper bag and slow-troll live pilchards, cigar minnows, Spanish sardines or blue runners over the site. Flexible-tip rods, conventional reels with 15- to 20-pound monofilament and wire leaders are standard kingfish gear.
The Miss Virginia ran most of last week, bringing in 28 to 48 keeper grouper each trip. Fishing in about 35 feet of water over the rocky ranges off Hernando Beach, anglers caught fish up to 12 pounds. The boat also has caught lemon and sand sharks and had several rigs cut off by kingfish. Grunt action continues on sardines and cut squid.
In the Inglis area, Ky Lewis has found grouper in the middle of the Cross Florida Barge Canal. Working in about 25 to 30 feet of water with large trolling plugs and jigs, he caught fish to about 12 pounds. Ed's Bait and Tackle in Crystal River reports Dwayne Levins, Keith Ward and two partners caught 20 grouper to 14 pounds and two Spanish mackerel while trolling plugs in 30 to 35 feet of water off Crystal River.
Spanish mackerel are running in the Cedar Key area. You'll see the toothy tyrants leaping and splashing as they surface to feed near coastal channels. Troll spoons to find the concentrations, then chum and work the area with live baits.
INSHORE: Good trout action continues on the grass flats between Anclote Key and the power plant. Drift the flats with live shrimp or pilchards under corks or work jigs with high hops to avoid snagging. Bluefish and pompano are likely bycatches.
I recently received reports of uncomfortable relations between anglers and owners of stilt houses off the Cotee River. Like any structure in the water, these houses occasionally harbor bait and gamefish. Important to remember, though, is these are private residences deserving the same respect as landbound homes.
As with dock fishing in residential canals, anglers are within their rights to fish adjacent to the structures, but homeowners are within their rights to expect appropriate consideration. Good rules of courtesy: Keep a safe distance from the houses, minimize noise (especially in early morning or at night), avoid tying up to the structure, and retrieve any snagged hooks or lures.
In Port Richey, Salonika Bait and Tackle reported that of those who braved blustery weather, many found snook to 38 inches in the Gulf Harbors area. The snook and a few local redfish have been eating live shrimp.
Look for redfish around oyster bars and mangrove points, as well as rocky shorelines like that of Filman Bayou. Reds will also settle into the potholes in the grass beds on Anclote Key's east side. Live pilchards are optimal, but gold spoons and gold or root beer-colored jigs also work.
With redfish, consider the shallower the fish feed, the spookier they become. In Filman, for example, the fish will move onto the shorelines with the rising tide, often skimming so shallow their dorsals break the surface. Here the repetitive plunk of artificials will send the fish packing. Sneaking a live bait into their midst or fly-fishing with floating line is ideal.
Trout anglers are catching fish on flats with shrimp fished under corks. Cobia to 30 pounds also have been caught. Drifting live pinfish by the markers and the deeper flats of 10-12 feet is best for the brown bombers.
FRESHWATER: Pana Vista Lodge on Lake Panasoffkee reports windy conditions didn't hurt the panfish action. Fish wiggler worms and crickets in about 5 feet of water near Tracey's Point. If wind threatens, fish the Withlacoochee River canal.
Bass anglers have been taking fish to 5 to 7 pounds in the Panasoffkee's north end. Successful anglers have been using live shiners or Texas-rigged purple worms.
_ David Brown can be reached by e-mail at redfish4uaol.com