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Sunday, Apr 23, 2017

It’s nice to have fishing friends

Fish are my friends. I often invite them home to dinner. But with so many seasonal regulations, it’s tough to know who you can invite home and when.

Federal waters for red snapper are now closed. The season is still open in state waters. I read a story of one speared right near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. That’s the first one I’ve ever heard of taken from inshore waters. There are no fences to keep them out so you still have a slim chance.

Forget amberjack and triggerfish. Their seasons are both now closed. And snook season continues to be closed.

On the “good news” side, you’ll be able to legally catch gag grouper starting July 1, when the season will be open in both state and federal waters.

Scallop season opens June 28. That’s a Saturday so the opening will be easy for our working fishermen to go. And go you must, because they’re only legal north of the Pasco-Hernando County line.

One good thing you can invite home is a shark. There are quite a few around our local waters that make good grub on a grill. Forget those big things that feed on our abundant tarpon. Catch smaller blacktips and bonnetheads for fun and grilling. Set up almost anywhere in the bay and chum with something smelly. While fishing the bottom, use a bit of wire and throw a large ladyfish or parts of one out in the water column.

It surprises me how many boats I see anchored with anglers fishing the bottom without a top-water line in the tide. Always find a spare rod, bait it with whatever you have and just throw it out behind the boat while you fish the bottom. All too often, that’s where the excitement is. If you don’t do that, you reduce your chances to make an exciting memory.

My wife recently grabbed a top-water rod I had out and brought a 25-inch Spanish mackerel to the boat. That fish about took her to the Apollo Beach power plant on a run. All I had on the rod was a shrimp. It would have been a shame to miss that excitement.

Sharks and tarpon often gobble baits drifting in the water column. Since they’re all over the bay right now, it won’t be like trying to hit the lottery. Your odds are really good that you’ll hook a great memory.

I just watched a nice blacktip shark getting cut for grill steaks on the fillet table at Shell Point Marina. The fishermen on that trip caught a variety of fish. All they wanted to talk about was this shark that hit ladyfish bait up top. Those friends all gave it an invitation to dinner.

You can do that too.

Larry Malinoski, aka the FishHawk, is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 469-7251 or fishhwk@tampabay.rr.com.