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Alternative action is key in the heat

Anglers are avoiding the high heat any way they can, some by not fishing, others by tailoring their trips to the cooler hours of the day. There are a few fish to be had, but patience is required. Pick your times carefully to avoid the heat and bad fishing. Today begins the cycle leading to the new moon; fish should respond more positively.

OFFSHORE: Offshore aficianados are finding the dog days very trying. Some denegrate the gulf, saying, "There's no fish out here."

Not so. The fish are there, they just get kind of ornery. When water temperatures push toward 90, fish get lethargic. It's time to catch what's biting, even if it's not your fish of choice.

Jesse Zuban on the Miss Virginia said action has lessened some. Day trips in near-shore waters are seeing more grunts _ and big ones. "Our last day trip saw six keeper fish come in along with many grunts," Zuban said. "It's too bad people don't think much of grunts; they can be downright fun."

Much-maligned, grunts offer a consistent alternative to poor grouper digging. Triggerfish also are prevalent this year. Both make fabulous tablefare.

For died-in-the-wool grouper fanatics, the tide becomes more important to success. Faster-moving water brings increased action during this period. "Our last trip to 95 feet we saw a decided reduction in the number of grouper caught," noted Zuban. "We had 27 keeper head come over the gunwale. Some real nice fish. A few times we got broke off by very large fish, but overall the action was less. The end of the outgoing tide was when our results were best."

Take some advice: Reduce the size of your hooks, use squid for bait, and put some grunt fillets on the table.

INSHORE: When the water temperature in your livewell exceeds the air temperature, game fishing will not be at its peak. If you understand this, you'll look for alternative types of action.

Right now, shark fishing has been very good. Small coastal sharks are easy to catch on light tackle. Simply hang a chum block over the side in water from 3 feet deep on out. Remember to use a short wire leader to avoid cut-offs. Any cut bait should do.

If you insist on chasing gamefish, things will be tougher, but a few fish are being caught. When the waters from Anclote Key to Bayport aren't buzzing with boats and personal watercraft, a few decent snook are being taken, most on live whitebait when it can be found. Some days baitfish schools are thick, then are gone the next day.

Redfish, while not thick, have been caught using both small pinfish and scaled sardines (whitebait). Hudson guide Tom Post found three good reds near Port Richey, and as many as were caught. "The incoming tide has been best," he said. "It brings fresh oxygenated water."

At Homosassa, guide Jimmy "Gatorman" Long has been putting his clients on decent trout. They have been catching them to 22 inches fishing 8 to 10 feet of water northwest of the bird rack. "It's a big place and you'll have to search for the fish, but they are there," Long said. "Fish scented soft plastic baits rigged on quarter-ounce jigheads. Simply let them hit bottom and work them in small hops."

Most of the fish are 19 to 20 inches and the better action has centered on the strong moon phases.

Jerry Homa from Hook Line and Sinker Bait and Tackle in Inverness has been tearing up the redfish on the good tides. "The incoming tide around Deadman's Key and other oyster bars is producing good action using freelined pinfish," he said. "I recommend fishing the points and cuts around this kind of structure."

Camel's Hump on the Crystal River cold-water intake canal also is producing some decent action. Fish cut mullet for good redfish and black drum.

If bending a rod is what you're after, try drifting or anchoring on the flats north of the Withlacoochee River for coastal sharks. A few trout and a mackerel or two are being caught.

FRESHWATER: There are always going to be a few anglers who produce good fish, though many species are adversely affected by the high temperatures. Fish dawn or dusk to avoid the heat. Slower presentations, or live bait, will produce better results. Heavy vegetation will provide necessary shade for the fish. Fish that pattern. Stump fields and deep channels or dropoffs also will hold fish.

Find cooler water and catch more fish.

_ If you have a question or comment, call Mike Scarantino at (352) 683-4868.

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