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Even professional fishing guides can have an off day. Sometimes we can use every trick in the book and still get skunked. This doesn't happen very often, but when it does, we try to remember what the conditions were and why we were unsuccessful.

Last weekend, we went permit fishing on the artificial reefs. Getting an early start was the first trick: We left at 5 a.m. so the lines would be in the water when the sun came up. The next trick is to have dollar-size crabs, and we had a full live well. Last is the tackle, and we were rigged with 50-pound-test braided line, and the small, expensive foreign hooks.

After reaching the reef, we spent some time looking at the recorder until we found a rise on the bottom that was covered with fish. I dropped the anchor up-current of the area so we could drift the free-lined crabs over the fish. After an hour of no luck, we tried to find another spot, using one of those fishing charts you can buy that have all the secret fishing locations. Still no luck. So, after four hours of fishing, 40 gallons of gas and $30 of crabs, all we had to show for our efforts was a live well of future crabcakes.

What did I learn? Don't go permit fishing. Go to a seafood restaurant where the crabs come with fries.

_ Doug Hemmer charters out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 347-1389.