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Boaters, steer clear of manatees

Posted Nov 22, 2012 by Jim Holliman

Updated Nov 22, 2012 at 06:23 PM

By FRANK SARGEANT

No-entry manatee zones are in effect around Tampa Bay and will remain so until spring — keep an eye out for signs that ban entry of propeller-driven watercraft.

Manatees are particularly abundant in the South Shore area of Tampa Bay, from the TECO plant at Apollo Beach south to the Skyway — keep a careful eye when operating anywhere in this area, and stay outside the marked manatee area when on plane.

Captain Ray Markham reports a lot of redfish around Sarasota Bay on Long Bar, at Buttonwood Harbor and in the Seven Pines area on the Bulkhead at the mouth of the Manatee River. Joe Bay is holding good numbers of redfish on the south side of the islands in the warm, sunny spots. Eppinger Rex Spoons, CAL Jigs and MirrOlure Lil’ Johns do the job, says Markham; http://www.captainraymarkham.com.

The upper end of Tampa Bay around Double Branch and Rocky Creek will offer increasingly better trout fishing in pot holes near the mouths of the outflows as the water continues to cool. Fish 3/16-ounce jigs or 4-inch swimbaits in depths of 2 to 4 feet on the last hours of outgoing tides to connect.

The spoil islands from Dunedin north to Anclote Key are in their usual winter mode, turning out big trout for anglers who anchor in 3 to 4 feet and fish live shrimp under a cork. Most of these trout are over the maximum slot size, so only one per day may be kept. For smaller but more numerous trout, drift the deeper grass in 6 to 8 feet and cast a 3/8-ounce jig ahead of the boat — you’ll also connect with a lot of black sea bass, some eating size, with this tactic.

Snook season remains closed, but there are plenty of them in area rivers and canals for catch-and-release. Live shrimp or plastic imitations do the job in the Manatee, Little Manatee, Alafia, Hillsborough, Cotee and Anclote rivers, mostly on deep bends and around bridges and creek outflows.

In freshwater, bass fishing is in pre-spawn mode in the southern half of the state, with plenty of larger females already prowling the shallow edges of grassy flats with firm bottom. Swimbaits and spinnerbaits are good prospecting lures at Okeechobee, Kissimmee and Toho, among many others. Live shiners continue to be the favorite for lunkers at Rodman Reservoir.

Winter speck fishing is rolling, with lots of these tasty panfish being caught throughout the Kissimmee, St. Johns and Palatlakaha/Harris lake chains. Most are still in deeper water, 8 to 14 feet, around shad schools. Troll 1/16-ounce jigs on 4- to 6-pound mono at 1 to 2 mph just off bottom to connect.

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

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