"I caught this 23 inch Gag Grouper at night in the Intracoastal Waterway in only 12 feet of water."
"Fishing books should ooze from a riverbank, not rocket out of publisher's offices in big cities." Neil Patterson
With so much changing in the local fishing scene, I don't know where to start. October 15th is the beginning of Stone Crab Season. In just a few days both offshore and inshore waters will look like a mine field from World War II. Crab trap markers will abound everywhere, especially when you consider that some of the commercial crabbers put out 5000 traps each. Last season I started with one trap and spent most of the season trying to figure out the best bait to use. After I tried everything from pig's feet, chicken necks, and canned cat food, I discovered Grouper heads to work the best for me. This year I'm up to three traps, all tied to the dock next to my boat. Most crabbers, including the pros, check and re-bait their traps every three days. Remember that you can only remove the claws and then return the crab to the water. Most local crabbers that I know only remove one claw. This helps the crab feed and protect itself better than removing both claws.
Fall fishing is in full swing. Spanish Mackerels as well as Kings have arrived in our area on their way to the southern wintering grounds. The rigs for the Spanish are bobbers set about 4 feet up and tipped with Greenback minnows. The Kings are hitting large minnows trolled at 2.5 MPH. King Spoons trolled at 4 MPH are also working well.
Another sign of the fall season happened this morning. I woke to find the bay loaded with hundreds of Rays and traveling with them were large Cobias. They, too, are here on their way down south. During the day, anglers fishing the piers next to the Bait House caught several using live pinfish and greenbacks. Large schools of Redfish are all over the Intracoastal Waterway. Look for them on the backside of Sand Key. If you are looking for Snook, try along the surf where they are very abundant. Also the jetties along Clearwater Pass are a hot spot for them.
I had my own introduction to the fall fishing season. For the last couple of weeks I had been catching Hammerhead and Black Tip Sharks usually an hour after sunset fishing on the bottom using Finger Mullets or Squid. Last Wednesday night I set out to do just that. I threw my line out with a dead Finger Mullet on it when I got a great bite. I was sure it was a Shark. The drag was whining out, but I got the fish turned and started to gain some line back when the fish wrapped around one of the pylons my boat is tied to. Since I had a 24 inch steel leader and 30 pound PowerPro line, I just muscled the fish back around the pylon. Being dark outside, I hadn't seen the fish yet. When I got him up to the boat I was shocked to find out that it was a Gag Grouper. He measured 23 inches. This was in the Intracoastal Waterway and in 12 feet of water. Now there's a sure sign of fall.
Remember to stop by the Bait House for all of your bait and tackle needs or to just share a fishing story with us. We have dock access for your boat. We have live shrimp, pinfish, fiddler crabs, as well as white bait. We also carry a full line of frozen baits and chum.
(I can be emailed at Jim2988@msn.com and as always, Good Luck Out There! Jim can be found daily at the Bait House - Clearwater Municipal Marina).
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