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CAPTAIN'S CORNER

The offshore fishing in May has been spectacular. Limits and near-limits of grouper and snapper are the norm. Our catches have included red and gag grouper, scamp, mangrove snapper and American red snapper.

Mixing in the fray are sharks up to 4 feet that appear uninvited in the middle of a strong grouper bite. These sharks are good sport with their drag-ripping runs and surface-thrashing antics. But the inevitable spider web of tangled lines caused by these toothy fish will cool down a hot bite.

We have had a strong morning bite up to about 11:30, followed by a midday slow down. A strong afternoon bite starts about 2.

Some of the noteworthy catches on my recent trips include: Mike Kneapler with a 7-pound mangrove snapper caught in 120 feet; John Hurley with an 18-pound gag grouper on spin tackle; Bob Mora with a fat 21-pound red grouper; and Ray Gadd who boated a 30-pound blackfin tuna after a 45-minute battle on spin tackle better suited for snapper.

On my last trip, 40 miles from shore, we had a whale shark about 25 feet that came on the surface and stayed within sight of our boat for about 10 minutes. Supposedly, they feed mostly on plankton and small fish. It looked to us like he was feeding right under a small school of baitfish.

_ Tom Turke fishes the Mixed Bag out of St. Petersburg. Call (813) 854-5779.

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