GO FISHING is a look at the area fishing scene through the eyes of local charter boat captains and fishing guides. Today: Frank Sargeant.
The 28th annual Coastal Conservation Association's "Digital Photo All-Release Challenge" fishing tournament, sponsored by T.A. Mahoney Co. Inc. and presented by the CCA Tampa chapter, gets under way with a captain's meeting, sign-up and barbecue tonight at Tampa Bay Watch Marine Center, 3000 Pinellas Bay Way in Tierra Verde. Fishing is Saturday, with anglers limited to artificial lures provided by the tournament. Eligible fish include snook, reds and trout — the fish are measured on the tournament ruler, digitally photographed and immediately released. The $100 entry fee includes today's cookout and Saturday's awards dinner, as well as the tournament lure pack and a year of CCA membership; (727) 867-1151.
Anglers fishing the event are likely to find lots of big redfish in the waters around Fort De Soto and lower Tampa Bay near the mouth of the Manatee River — fish around 40 inches are abundant now because of the fall spawning run into the bay.
Fish sloughs and deeper flats near open water, as well as around artificial reefs in the bay, to find the lunkers; captain Ray Markham has these fish wired; www.captainraymarkham.com.
Trout are turning on with the cooler water — topwater fishing along the South Shore from the Bulkhead to Manbirtee Key will be a good bet early, and snook are still hanging in the same areas, as well as in the lower rivers. The Manatee reportedly has some giants around the 41 bridge.
Spanish are pretty much a gimme in the lower bay and off the beaches — get out early and watch for diving birds. Small jigs or chrome spoons worked very fast do the job or, if you want bigger fish, free-line live sardines. The macks are often mixed with blues, bonito, jacks and ladyfish — and there are some sizeable sharks shadowing the gamefish, if you're inclined to a slugging match. Bait with a slab of fresh bonito, or with a live ladyfish. For a sure-thing mackerel trip, check with captain Van Hubbard at Englewood; www.captvan.com.
From Anclote Key northward, the deep grass is loaded with trout, sea bass and small grouper. Drift in 6 to 8 feet and toss a Tsunami swimbait or a plastic jig ahead of the boat. On the outer edge of the grass, there are a lot of mackerel. Anchor, put out a chum bag and let them come to you.
Freshwater bass fishing is steadily better with the cooler water. Lake Tarpon has a good schooler bite this time of year. Anywhere around surfacing weeds in open water is a good bet, and a Tiny Torpedo is a hard lure to beat.