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Friday, Oct 20, 2017
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Watch temperatures and tides for good fishing

The fishing in South Shore waters has been on fire lately. We've been catching just about everything from cobia around the towers and markers in the bay to redfish and snook in the backcountry. The key has been planning your trip according to the water temperature. We've seen a five- to six-degree water temperature swing, so my plan of attack has been to start on the flats and backcountry first thing in the morning, and as the day heats up, move out to the bay and fish deeper water columns. Redfish have been one of the top producers when the conditions are ideal. My ideal conditions have been a high outgoing tide first thing in the morning before the sun heats up. Fishing tight under the mangrove trees is a must, as most fish are hanging tight under the shade.
My bait of choice has been a greenback suspended under a Cajun Thunder popping cork. If you can't catch greenbacks, shrimp are also a great bait to use. Bait has been running smaller, so downsizing your hook size to a No. 1 Daiichi Bleeding circle hook is a great idea. Look for fish to start schooling up in big herds as we head into September. Another species that has been on fire — and most people don't even think to target — is grouper. Although grouper are known to move to deeper water when the water temperatures climb into the upper-80s, finding good bottom along the spoil islands and wrecks in the bay will produce keeper-sized fish. I've had the best luck using cut bait for chum and getting the fish chummed up. Fishing at the end and the start of the tides or slower tides has also been key. You want moving water, but you don't want it to be moving too fast so your bait will be able to get down. In these same areas, we're still catching mangrove snapper exceeding four pounds, and the occasional cobia as well. If you're looking to target mangrove snapper, use smaller baits and lighter leader, as cobia seem to be a bit pickier than grouper. Last has been snook, and although I haven't caught any to brag about, I've caught smaller fish in the same areas the reds have been caught. Snook fishing will only continue to get better as we approach the cooler weather of the fall. I really haven't targeted snook. Most of these fish have just spawned and are in a rush to feed. Remember: Snook season remains closed, and all fish are catch and release.  

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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