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Be prepared for year’s busiest boating weekend

Posted May 24, 2012 by Frank Sargeant

Updated May 24, 2012 at 03:44 PM

Make sure your boat has all the required safety gear and that you have a designated skipper who stays clear of alcohol if you’re on the water this weekend – the FFWCC will have every available officer enforcing boating laws on the busiest boating weekend of the year.

The quarter-moon tides this weekend likely will result in “blah” fishing for species that feed mainly on strong current flows, including snook. On the other hand, slow tide movements are good for offshore bottom fishing, and mangrove snapper (AKA gray snapper) are biting really well. Good areas to try include the shoulder of the ship channel on both sides of the Skyway – weight a sardine with 4 ounces of lead and drop it to within a foot or two of bottom. The snapper you catch this way will be big ones, 3 pounds and up – the best eating in the sea.

For inshore action, the deeper grass flats are the place to find chunky trout – look for “kelp” grass at depths of 4-10 feet. This orangish grass is typically found from Port Manatee south and west toward the Gulf in hard bottom areas, and also holds black sea bass, including some big spawners – trout and seabass are readily caught on plastic tail jigs and swimbaits bounced off bottom. Live sardines are also a good bet to turn on bigger trout and, early in the day, noisy topwater plugs will do the job.

Tarpon are everywhere, but many skippers reported a weird bite the past week. Some think the fish may leave to go offshore to spawn early this year because of the quick climb in water temperatures – Gulf water is already 84 degrees, when the long-term average here is around 80. If the fish do depart, they’ll be back in a few weeks, and will head up inside Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor to “blackwater” areas where they can be caught on live threads or cut shad or mullet, as well as on DOA Baitbusters in 8-15 feet of water.

Tribune correspondent Frank Sargeant can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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