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Saturday, Apr 29, 2017

Tight drags bring big smiles

A friend reminded me of another bonus. Summer rains reduce the salinity of the water. This guy would buy shrimp, put it into a bucket off his dock and it would die overnight. Now he tells me the bait is alive, fresh and the fish are biting. Our salinity level is coming back to normal.

There are still smaller tarpon and nice trout hanging around the mouth of the Little Manatee River. One local there has been tearing them up just around dark. Another friend got so excited at how good the bite is, he bought a kayak just to fish this area right at dark. He wants me to join him in the fun. He can do it for me. I’m not built to fit in little boats.

Kings will be around a while longer as they migrate south. Along with kings the gag grouper bite, both inshore and offshore, has dramatically improved. Now it’s a whole lot easier to go grouper fishing and get gags along with the common red grouper.

I’ve been on nice fish from inside Egmont all the way up the bay to Apollo Beach. Just remember these big gags are not going to give up easily.

I have mostly Avet reels on my boat rods. They are made in a machine shop in San Diego and have really strong, smooth drags. When a big gag hits, my drags are giving me a solid 15 pounds of minimum drag to yank it away from structure.

People often ask to bring their rods and reels onboard and try for the big ones. Sure I allow it but insist they have tight drags. Tight is a relative word and costly for me. I have lost oh so many rigs to fish that hit, pulled drags, got in the rocks, and then broke off with my jigs and lures in their mouth.

It seems reasonable that some of those fish died because of the tackle stuck in them. The fish stories that end with “the big one got away” are common.

When fishing for big gags, use drags with a solid 15 pounds of pressure. If you do, you’ll put a smile on your face and a fillet in your tummy.

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 fishhwk@tampabay.rr.com.