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Winter action keeping anglers busy

Posted Jan 31, 2013 by The Tampa Tribune

Updated Jan 31, 2013 at 05:51 PM

By FRANK SARGEANT

Red tide is generally not a problem inside Tampa Bay at the moment, and the usual winter action is on tap with the cooler air coming through on the tail of the front. Trout will continue to be active on deep grass flats like those between Port Manatee and the Skyway; seek out areas with clear water and visible plant growth in 6 foot depths or more, and fish them with quarter-ounce jigs and 4-inch shad tails hopped on bottom, or drift a DOA Shrimp (or live shrimp) about 3 feet below a popping cork.

Grouper are biting like crazy from 60 feet on out, but the season is closed from today through March 31. Plenty of gray snapper take up the slack offshore, but for those who want heavyweights, you’ll have to wait. The snook season has reopened on the east coast, but it remains closed on our side of the state through August 31 pending further action by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Captain Mike Shellen continues to catch whopper bass on wild shiners at Lake Okeechobee around the bulrushes on the north end. He said the fish spawned on the full moon last week, so the bedding action has slackened a bit, but lots more fish will move to the marshes on the new moon and full moon in February. Shellen said speckled perch fishing has slowed a bit, but lots of fish have moved into the reeds to spawn. Best areas, he said, are around Tin House Cove, Harney Pond, the North Shore and J&S Camp.

Shellen said speckled perch fishing has slowed a bit offshore, but lots of fish have moved into the reeds to spawn.

“Where you smell fish, there are a bunch of specks spawning,” Shellen advises. Live minnows and tiny jigs do the job. He said all area canals, Harney Pond, Indian Prairie, the lower Kissimmee River and the reeds around the bird islands are all producing. To book a trip, visit http://www.okeechobeebassfishing.com.

Captain Van Hubbard reports plenty of red tide still around the Venice/Englewood/Charlotte Harbor area, but he says there are vast areas of clean water where fish are biting well, too.

“Ride until you see mullet jumping and wading birds feeding — the gamefish are in those areas, too,” Hubbard said. He said his clients have tangled with everything from ladyfish on every cast to keeper trout, tailing reds and some big snook in the past week; http://www.captvan.com.

Anglers from Weeki Wachee to Crystal River are finding plenty of mangrove snapper in rocky holes, easily caught on live shrimp on 6-pound test line and a bit of shot. Light tackle is key to fooling these wary panfish. Captain Scott Moore visited the Homosassa Springs attraction last week and posted YouTube footage of dozens — maybe hundreds — of snook 30 inches and up all piled into the warm headwaters. Though most of us consider Homosassa north of snook territory, when March comes all these fish are going to slide out on to the flats to create some great catch-and-release action.

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

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