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Friday, Sep 22, 2017
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Artificial reefs and wrecks provide great summer fishing

Tropical Storm Debby came and went, leaving a bit of a mess behind. She also caused some dirty water in Tampa Bay. Excessive amounts of fresh water entering the bay from feeder creeks, subdivisions and rivers caused a big change in salinity levels near the flats. As a result many fish moved more to the center of the bay. In my recent charters over South Shore waters, I've found fishing to be better toward the middle of the bay around numerous wrecks and reefs. Most of these spots are easily located on most current GPS devices. With these coordinates and decent sonar, you'll be ready to venture out to find some of Tampa Bay's best wrecks. Most fish typically are drawn to some type of structure. They use it as shelter from predator fish, to get out of strong tidal flows, to hide from bait fish or just as a home. When fishing wrecks you can find a variety of fish, from small to big.
Fishing structure with a variety of tackle is a good idea. I always start out with my typical flats rigs, which are eight-foot Daiwa Coastal Series light tackle rods and 2500 Tierra reels. Then I match 25-pound leader with a #1 Daicchi circle hook, because bait seems to be running smaller this time of year. I'll use the adequate amount of split shots to get the weight down depending on tide and wind. When targeting mangrove snapper I use little to no weight between tides if I can chum the fish off the bottom. Having a few big threadfin herring or pinfish in the bait well allows you to change to bigger gear to see what else might be down there. Don't be surprised if you hook into a big cobia, grouper or even a tarpon. Just about everything lives around these pieces of structure. Some wrecks are big and spread over a vast area; others might be a simple ledge that is hard to find. The smaller wrecks seem to have fish concentrated all in one area, which can be difficult to fish but rewarding once you've moored on the right spot. Having a throw jug as you near a ledge will help you mark it. This gives you a reference point when anchoring. I use one that works great called JUG IT! Anchoring on smaller wrecks can be difficult when there is an opposite tide and wind direction, or if it's just one of those days when there is no tide and no wind. I have grown to love the anchor mode on my Rhodan GPS Trolling motor on flat calm days. It enables me to anchor on a spot with the touch of a button. Finally, bring lots of bait. Fish are typically at the bottom hiding in the structure. Throwing out handfuls of chum bait will draw them up and out of the structure, making it a little easier to get them to the boat. This should not be a big task. Most flats all the way down to Piney Point should have lots of smaller greenbacks on them. Remember to bring a ¼-inch mess cast net. If not you'll have a lot of cleaning to do back at the dock. Tight lines!

Jason Prieto is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 727-9890 or captjasonp@aol.com.

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