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Persistent fog is good for fishing

That's right, as long as there's fog, both air and water temperatures are holding at acceptable angling levels. And that means fishing is good overall.

A nice mix of species are being caught along the Nature Coast. Trout, pompano, permit, ladyfish, and bluefish are prevalent. A few cobia still linger near warm-water outlets. Regardless of the fishing, exercise caution and plan your trips wisely.

OFFSHORE: Grouper, triggerfish, Key West grunts, and a few decent-sized seabass are coming over the gunwale, although warmer than normal temperatures are keeping the larger grouper in deeper water. Fish beyond 30 feet for the best results.

In Pasco County, the party boat Miss Virginia has been finding good numbers of grouper to 14 pounds in 55 feet of water. Frozen Spanish sardines have been the bait of choice. Once fish begin to nibble at a sardine on the bottom, the action sparks a feeding frenzy by creating its own chum slick. Sardines are very oily fish by nature. One trick is to soak the bait in rock salt brine the night before fishing; it toughens them up and they last longer on the hook.

In Hernando Beach, Dan Ebbecke Sr., master aboard the Thunder party boat, says "fishing has been decent, though the bigger grouper haven't grouped yet." Warmer than normal water temperatures have the fish scattered. If temperatures drop, the fish will congregate around rock piles in shallower depths.

The Thunder has been fishing west-northwest off Hernando Beach. Threadfin herring, cut baits and squid are working best. Something weird: Even the grouper are taking squid. Ebbecke explains it this way: "Occasionally, squid pass through the area in good numbers and the grouper will feast on them. If that's occurred around the time we're out there, the grouper will bite on the squid."

Included in recent catches have been a few sharks. The last one was a 5-foot thresher. "For safety sake we don't bring the sharks onboard, we release them at the side of the boat," Ebbecke said. "Besides, many small coastal sharks are approaching endangerment; no sense in killing them."

Grouper fishing off Homosassa has been exceptional. Fish to 33 inches are being taken in some shallow areas. Small boats should try rock piles east of the Gomez rocks. Bigger vessels should run approximately 30 miles west of No. 2 on the river channel.

INSHORE: Trout action has been good in the southern end of the Nature Coast. Pasco County waters are holding decent fish from Anclote Key north. Around the Anclote power plant, large schools of jacks are running the flats. A few permit and pompano are being caught. Jigs tipped with shrimp are the best bet. Bluefish are providing some decent action.

Trout to 5-plus pounds have been caught using scented soft plastic baits. On a recent charter, professional angler Joey Reis and his party caught six fish over 3 pounds. Key in on patchy bottom near deep dropoffs. Up in Hudson, Chip's Bait and Seafood reports good trout action along points and area channels.

The bigger fish have been caught using live shrimp. Also, small live pinfish or shrimp rigged under a popping cork will attract them. Try a noise-making float.

In the Homosassa River, Bonnie Van Allen has moved the Big Shrimp Boat upriver to Marker 69A in Tiger Tail Bay. She reports good-sized trout action at the mouth of the river. A pair of local anglers pulled in 11 fish to 21 inches using artificial baits. Jigs, small gold spoons, or jerkbaits will do well. They allow you to cover more ground looking for the better fish. Rig up the live shrimp when you find them.

Big sheepshead are eating along the river channel and around marker pilings. Use a jig tipped with shrimp and some barnacle chum to stir their appetites.

FRESHWATER: Fish are biting, but the recent spate of cold fronts has slowed the action. Sonny Zettle out at Watson's Fish Camp reports speckled perch are biting but the numbers are down.

The fish have moved out into open water so try fishing deeper, more stable climes. Use a speck jig tipped with a Missouri minnow to tempt their appetites. Crickets have enticed a few bluegill to bite, but most are bedding down for the spawn.

Bass anglers are finding much the same patterns right now. A live wild shiner will outperform most artificial lures. Or, try working a dark plastic worm slowly. Black and purple are good colors in clear water.

_ If you have questions or comments for Mike, he can be reached at(352) 683-0743, or online at captmikeangler-fla.com

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