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Whitebait arrives, so do the fish

Published Sep. 2, 2005

Spring has arrived with a bang.

Hordes of whitebait have invaded the flats, and snook, cobia, redfish and trout are in hot pursuit.

Look for cobia to be following the large southern stingrays that glide the flats. It's a good idea to keep a jig with a stout hook rigged because you never know when you may come across a cobia. In many instances, the fish will come to you.

The cobia often will respond to anything that catches its eye. A bucktail jig or eel replica usually will get the job done.

If the cobia is being finicky, a lively bait under a cork will persuade it to bite. Large greenback, threadfin, or pinfish make excellent bait selections.

If the cobia doesn't seem interested in the first presentation, keep trying. Work every option before giving up. Sometimes it may take five or more offers before the fish finally bites.

Snook fishing has been good, but it has begun to taper off. Constant pressure and available forage have most well known schools seeking sanctuary.

The key to snook angling looks to be finding a school that isn't being pressured and keeping it to yourself. A slight cold snap or a decrease in pressure could be enough relief to spur these fish into their typical behaviors.

Tactics that might increase opportunities are fishing later in the evening or early in the morning. The night bite of snook remains good and should throughout the summer.

Scaling tackle to minimum (eight-pound test, 20-pound leader with small wire hooks) may produce more hookups, though it makes landing fish more difficult.

Trout and redfish seem to respond to a live greenback despite all the pressure. Often, they will congregate in the same areas, making it easy to target both at the same time.

High-tide oyster bars and mangrove shorelines should hold plenty of catches. A couple handfuls of chum probably will liven up the fish near the structure. Plus, the chum will help determine the location of the fish.

Some species will be spread across the flat. Drifting jigs in all directions is an effective method. Weedless gold spoons are optimal in this situation.

As the tide falls, these fish will leave the flat in search of deeper water.

Cuts in the flat, including nearby channels and potholes, probably will be gathering places. The lower the tide the better, as the fish will have even fewer places to go.

Offshore, a wide range of opportunities exist. Kingfish have started their migration north, following large schools of sardine and herring.

Trolling spoons on planners always is an effective method. Drifting live baits while anchored, or trolling them slowly just under the surface, usually will produce larger catches.

Spanish mackerel and bonito, smaller species mixed in with the kings, are a blast on light tackle.

Small spoons work well for both. Though wire leader isn't necessary for bonito, it often is helpful with toothy mackerel. Since the two species usually are together, rig with wire.

Grouper fishing has been exceptional from the middle grounds all the way in to 30 feet. Live baits seem to be yielding the best results but aren't a necessity.

Capt. Pete Katsarelis charters out of Tarpon Springs and can be reached at (727) 439-3474 or