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 final brief arrival of winter here was quickly chased away by the 80-degree afternoons, and any slow-down in the bite should be back on track this weekend.
Anglers in search of big trout can still find plenty around the spoil islands and bars north of Clearwater Beach in the Intracoastal. Select shrimp fished unweighted under small corks do the job for these fish, which frequently exceed 20 inches; they'll be there until the spring warm-up in mid-March.
If you can't find the sea trout in that area, a move to the deep water near the Dunedin Causeway is likely to put you on plenty of silver trout, which are a smaller but tasty panfish. They're typically found in holes 8 feet or deeper and best caught on a small piece of shrimp fished near bottom on size 1 hooks.
Sheepshead continue to bite well in rocky pot holes and residential canals, and again the best offering is live shrimp on small hooks. The larger sheepshead, more than 5 pounds, will start showing up on the rocky channel edges in Tampa Bay soon, maybe on the moon tides this week as they start to spawn.
Red tide continues to be a problem south of Tampa Bay — for the time being, your best bet is to avoid the area and wait for strong east winds to push the noxious algae away from shore.
In fresh water, Kyle Monti of Okeechobee won the Walmart Bass Fishing League last weekend on Lake Okeechobee with five bass that went 24 pounds, even. Here's how he did it according to FLW, the sponsoring tournament group:
"I started out in an area where the water was clearing up throughout the day and found some fish on a Charlie's Worms Zipper Dipper," Monti continued. "I fished there for the first two hours of the morning, and I must have missed over 10 fish. Some of them were in the 4- to 5-pound range and it made the start of my day pretty rough.
"It all turned around when I decided to fish a new area on the outside edge of grass. I changed lures, and started flipping a 1-ounce Medlock jig in black and blue and caught a big one, about 6 pounds. In that same area, my co-angler caught another 6-pounder on a Rat-L-Trap.
"I realized that those fish were just starting to move in from the main lake and they were feeding pretty hard," Monti went on to say. "I made the decision to stay there for the rest of the day, and all of my big fish came off of a 25-yard stretch within two hours of each other."
Also from Okeechobee, captain Mike Shellen reports a slow-down in the bass bite from the passing cold front, requiring a switch to flipping soft plastics in the grass lines rather than fishing crank-style lures. He said some good areas include the Monkey Box, North Shore, Little Grassy, Eagle Bay and J&S.
Shellen said speck fishing continues to be excellent, with one of the best areas straight off the mouth of the Kissimmee River, where up to 40 boats are loading up daily fishing live minnows just off bottom; www.okeechobeebassfishing.com.