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Unexpected guests make fishing great

The new year should hold many surprises for anglers fishing the Gulf Coast. Many species of fish that should be far south this time of year stayed around for the holidays and some the area hasn't seen for years made an appearance.

American red snapper have surprised many deep-water fishermen, with good numbers being caught around wrecks far offshore. Wrecks around the middle grounds and up in the grounds themselves have produced some of the best catches along with plenty of gag grouper and mangrove snapper. Closer to shore, anglers have hauled in stringers full of white grunts and trigger fish along with a few keeper grouper.

Pier anglers fishing the North Skyway will enjoy some of the late season Spanish mackerel run. Midmorning seems to be the time to get in on the action, which has included some hits from grouper and mangrove snapper. Small spoons and free-lined shrimp have been the best bet for bait.

Gulf piers have been holding their own, with action from whiting and silver trout reported at Redington Long Pier. The best baits have included live shrimp and small jigs.

Boats trolling the gulf are holding their own on the king run. Although usually far south this time of year, these fish have stayed around as the warmer weather has. Best catches have come from the 50-foot range.

For inshore anglers, fish the midmorning high tide, which brings plenty of water up on the flats. Look for reds and trout to be hanging around mangrove islands where the water is clear. Most fish will be on the windless sides where the water is warmer.

_ Joe Genovese charters Sea Cap III out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 341-1823.