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Secrets of the Gulf.

Kingfish are a big deal here during the spring and fall runs. Bait has been readily available much of this year, and when the groceries are here, the fish will follow. Look for the shallow hard bottom areas to produce runs of king and Spanish mackerel. Circling and diving birds might point the way to some action, just as a bottom machine lights up for grouper. Trolling is probably the most effective way of both locating and catching mackerel. But anchoring up and chumming while deploying live baits will attract the largest of the mackerel and kingfish to the boat. Slow-trolling live mullet, ladyfish, blue runners, pinfish, and others will draw strikes from big kings. Most anglers prefer smaller kings for the table and smoker largely due to the lower mercury content, but whatever sizes you catch are destined to put smiles on faces.

Bottom fishing begins to take on new meaning for nearshore anglers as water temperatures begin to fall. Gag grouper will slowly work their way toward shallower depths. While much of the year the big boys will be out beyond the 100-foot mark, you'll begin catching more gags over the 24-inch minimum in that 80-to 100-foot range and even shallower over the next couple of months. Red grouper tend to do the opposite. Where reds were caught in 60 to 80 feet much of the summer, as waters cool, they will move out deeper. Mangrove snapper will continue to chew much as they have done all summer, but at a slower pace. You'll find them moving deeper as the water temps drop.

Coastal favorites for many anglers include shellfish, and on Oct. 15 stone crab season reopens. Give these traps a few weeks to soak with their fresh baits and you'll see an influx of tripletail once marine growth gathers on the traps, lines, and floats. The traps will attract small crabs, shrimp, and baitfish that are very attractive to predators. Brief stops at these crab trap floats can add some variety and excitement to the trip as well as some delicious fillets on the table.

Shrimp are very productive natural baits for inshore species, yet few anglers think to take them on offshore trips. If you don't already take them, you might start thinking about carrying some live shrimp offshore. Hogfish, tripletail, a variety of snappers, grouper, mackerel and many others will scarf down a shrimp without hesitation.

Redfish action that has been simmering during the heat of summer in our area will perk up, and some of the biggest fish of the year will move into area waters.

Our trout fishery, with larger fish from lower Pinellas County down to Charlotte Harbor, seems to have taken a hit over the past few years from the persistent red tide. We are seeing loads of small fish that may perhaps be a year old, but the numbers offish over the 15-inch minimum seem to be fewer in our area. More effort is necessary to take a few home for dinner. Spotted seatrout are very prolific spawners, usually spawning several times a year, but right now with the 15-to 20-inch size limit, in some areas the larger fish are more difficult to come by. FWC held workshops over the past several months to review the species, and the information gathered could result in changes.

HUNTING Gray squirrel season in Zone C runs Oct. 14 through Mar. 4 and they may be taken by all legal rifles, shotguns, air guns, muzzleloaders, crossbows, bows and pistols. Zone C hunters who have been eagerly waiting for deer and fall turkey seasons can get ready. Oct. 21 through Nov. 3antlereddeerand gobbler or bearded turkeys may be taken by muzzleloader, crossbow or bow. If you intend to hunt in a deer management unit, there are some restrictions, specific locations, dates, and more information that you need to know, and that information can be found on the FWC website.

BEST BET

WEST CENTRAL

Pompano can be caught throughout the year, and you'll hear about anglers who catch a few from time to time, but during this time of year, pompano seem to be more plentiful. They run in schools along sand bars near passes and along shorelines on beaches and coastal barrier islands where small mollusks and crustaceans live. They can even be found up inside Tampa Bay around the bridges feeding on barnacles and the small crabs found there. These fish can caught with small, short skirted jigs or lead jigs painted yellow, chartreuse, or pink with small teaser flies attached.

Caption: The Stoddard family ran about SO miles off St. Pete Beach and in 120 feet of water they got the cool shot of the hammerhead they had on the line.
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Title Annotation:WEST CENTRAL
Author:Markham, Ray
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:Sep 30, 2017
Words:789
Previous Article:On land and sea.
Next Article:Just one Point North.

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