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Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Snook and gag grouper seasons are coming back

Snook harvest will re-open Sept. 1. It's still going to be one per person within a slot size of 28 to 33 inches. It's breeding season right now, and these fish can be very aggressive. I've heard of recent snook strikes on plugs with treble hooks that got inhaled deeply. That makes it tough to release without injury. My suggestion is you don't target them now. If you do, use single, live-bait circle hooks only. Keep them in the water for pictures like you do tarpon and other fish you don't keep. American red snapper are still in-season until June 28. Early bad weather has kept the harvest low, so it's possible there could be a fall extension.
Speaking of tarpon, fishing for them has been spotty so far this year. Bad weather has probably driven them offshore at times, but some pods are in the bay. It's been tough fishing around the Skyway with only a few fishermen having any success. We need some good weather days in a row, and then you can expect the action to improve. Gags are coming back in. This is the second year our gag grouper fishing has been closed for an extended time. July 1 is the long-awaited re-opening. Since gags pretty much hang around certain structures, scouting for them is a good move. Large live baits, sardines and even squid strips will work. Use a large circle hook and your release will be easy. Mark the location so you can return when the season is in. The fish will be there waiting for your invitation to dinner. If you are going to troll to find fish, avoid using plugs with multiple treble hooks. Just like snook, a big gag can inhale those plugs causing damage. Use single hooks on trolling jigs for easy release. Lately I found some good new spots trolling 4-ounce Nekid Ball Jigz. You read that name right. I did not add any kind of curly tail, and the dressing over the hook held up well. Check them out on the internet or ask your local tackle shop for information. A recent article in "American Hunter" reminded me of how versatile our South Shore can be. Capt. Joel Brandenberg of Apollo Beach was the subject of a combination fishing and hunting adventure. He guides fishermen here and can take you feral hog hunting at the same time. Captain Joel calls it his Surf and Turf excursion. For further details, contact Capt. Joel at (813) 267-4401. Lots of opportunities are in, so get out there and . catch 'em up. 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 [email protected]
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