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Offshore sites produce during cold snap

Posted Jan 3, 2013 by The Tampa Tribune

Updated Jan 3, 2013 at 07:39 PM

By FRANK SARGEANT

Captain Mark Hubbard reports loads of keeper-sized mangrove snapper from 20 to 24 miles offshore being caught on his party boats out of Madeira Beach. Hubbard also said there are incredible numbers of gag grouper and red snapper on most drops, but both must be released due to closed seasons.

He said lots of sheepshead are hanging around Johns Pass and other large passes from St. Pete Beach to Clearwater Beach and will take live shrimp or fiddler crabs. Rates start at $50 for a half-day on the party boats; http://www.hubbardsmarina.com.

Captain Ray Markham reports good action in lower Tampa Bay on bluefish, trout to 4 pounds, pompano to 4½ pounds, redfish to 8 pounds and dozens of flounder on trips over the holidays.

Eppinger Rex Spoons, DOA Shrimp, CAL Jigs with Shad tails and MirrOlure Lil’ John jerk baits were consistent producers, with the CAL Shad being the best all-around option. Markham said his anglers found good action from the Bulkhead near the mouth of the Manatee River all the way to Cockroach Bay; http://www.captainraymarkham.com.

Captain Mike Shellen reports that the cold weather slowed bassing action somewhat at Lake Okeechobee, but it should be great with the coming warm-up. Grassy Island, J&S and the North Shore are all yielding good numbers, says Shellen. Flippin’ and pitchin’ with creature baits in heavy cover produce the larger fish, and live wild shiners are still catching fish.

Shellen said specks are biting at the mouth of the Kissimmee River, as well as along the North Shore, Harney Pond and Observation Shoal areas — live minnows in open water and on weed-bed edges, tiny jigs inside the cover; http://www.okeechobeebassfishing.com.

Captain Sean Rush is hitting plenty of trophy-sized bass at Rodman, all on big wild shiners fished under the hyacinths next to the river channel. And Bob Wattendorf of the FWCC reports that Istokpoga has been on fire for big fish, producing over a thousand largemouths of 8 pounds or better in the past year, an apparent result of the intensive habitat management a decade ago.

Most of the jumbos come on live shiners, but soft plastics in the holes and spinnerbaits or buzzbaits over the peppergrass also do the job. Most of the big fish were released after being weighed and measured, Wattendorf said.

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

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