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Feed time.

In nearshore and inshore waters, tarpon will begin moving away from the beaches up into the bays for the next couple of months where they will feed around the bridges of upper Tampa Bay, in the Myakka and Peace rivers and all the small rivers and feeder creeks from Boca Grande to New Port Richey. While some become resident fish, others move out after feeding and head either south or west.

On a similar path with tarpon leading into the backcountry and up rivers and creeks, snook will have their last spawn around the new moon at midmonth or near the end of the month on the full moon. But upon completion of the spawn, these fish are hungry and begin their backwater migration to feed, where they will put on weight and store fat to stave off the cold months that may lie ahead. Their ravenous appetites will be the angler's best friend, since snook season reopens Sept. 1. Big baits will be welcomed, and with water temperatures just beginning to fall, the invigorating change will encourage these fish to put on the feed bag, dropping their normal guard. Top-water lures tossed in early mornings around points, mangrove islands, and the swashes of oyster bars are sure to draw the attention of these fish. The big spawners will be sleek and skinny but are looking to replenish what they lost during the spawn in short order. The first couple of weeks of the month will be the most productive, and it's likely that many anglers will cull the legal fish out in a hurry to take home.

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Redfish schools in West Central waters began increasing in numbers last month and this will continue for the following month or so as they work the flats and channels for finger mullet that swim with the larger mullet in schools. Mullet are beginning to fatten up for the fall over the next couple of months. These schools of mullet work the grassbeds for food with reds following close behind, attacking small crabs and shrimp that pop up out of the grass. Lookfor jumping mullet in schools. If you're finding flashy pinfish in the grassbeds, then a copper or gold colored weedless spoon is hard to beat. Live shrimp, shiners, grunts, and pinfish will be redfish candy.

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At summer's end, trout fishing is worth the effort, but the larger fish wait until cooler weather has arrived. Our speckled trout will probably be found best in 4 to 6 feet of water during the day but early in the morning you'll find the largest ones up in shallow water grassflats or in potholes. This month's tides look like a roller coaster in which they are up and down at about the same levels for each tide.

The summer-long season for bay scallops comes to a close Sept. 25 for those diving the grass beds north of the Pasco/Hernando County line. From all reports it was a good season, and anglers will finally have the flats back to themselves.

Bluewater anglers have the possibility of hitting on some billfish beyond 150 feet, and the potential for tuna, dolphin, wahoo and others exists as well. High speed trolling will cover water and sometimes produce nice fish. Work weedlines and any kind of floating objects for results and keep an eye on the sky for birds that circle high above big fish.

Gag grouper begin making a move over the next month to take up residence on shallow hard bottom areas beginning in about 40 feet of water. But for now, you'll find consistent catches of gags in 60 to 80 feet of water. Red grouper will be in similar depths but will stage up on more of a Swiss cheese bottom versus ledges, wrecks, and reefs.

Look for the return of Spanish and king mackerel over the next month. Keep your ears tuned to the north as these fish will be coming from the Panhandle. First reports will likely come from the Crystal River area in 10 to 30 feet of water where anglers will be working the shallow-water grouper spots.

HUNTING It's time to bring out the bows and arrows for a little target practice before turkey and deer seasons open. Zone C hunters may have a shot at antlered or antlerless deer and gobblers and bearded turkeys by crossbow or bow on the season opener beginning Sept. 19.

BEST BET WEST CENTRAL

The summer closure of snook puts pressure on redfish, trout, flounder and other species. While these other species are highly prized table fare, snook, with its short season, is perhaps the number one targeted species during the open seasons. The hunt, the stalking, the bait presentation and the fight makes the snook deserving of this moth's best bet honors.
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Title Annotation:WEST CENTRAL
Author:Markham, Ray
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:Sep 1, 2015
Words:802
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