By Rick Flanders

I managed a quick getaway to the West Central coast of Florida to team up with my old fishing partner. Day 1 - I flew into Tampa it was a rainy and cool 43 degrees but a welcome change from the 15 degrees I left behind. I had shipped a rod & reel ahead to avoid the TSA rearranging the guides on my rod ( It happened on an earlier trip to the Keys). We grabbed our gear and proceeded to find the bridge over the Anclote River in Tarpon Springs we had seen featured in a video. In that video the guy was catching snook and redfish.
We gave it a good try, fishing the incoming ,casting spoons and soft plastics under the bridge but there were no takers. But It sure did look fishy.

Day 2 - We decided to hit the North Sunshine Skyway fishing pier in Tampa Bay. It was pouring rain with a stiff 15 MHP out of the NE, perfect. We were fishing the last of the incoming , trying to coax a sheepshead or two away from the pilings. We started catching grunts, porgies and mangrove snappers as a by catch.
The resident gang of thieves consisting of great blue herons, great white herons, egrets, pelicans, royal terns, laughing gulls and even pigeons had surrounded my buddy and were terrorizing him. One gull flew off with the rag covering his bait, a pelican grabbed the cutting board covering the fish in the bucket and another pelican grabbed his hand holding a fish he had just unhooked ( Don't ever feed these guys ).
Time to leave laughing and fry up our catch for the day.

Day 3 - We headed out on the "Two Georges" a party boat out of Tarpon Springs. It's 8 hour trip with a 1 1/2 hour running time to the first drop. There was a serious sea fog and we never saw the sun till we docked at 4 pm but we had terrific conditions no wind and no swell. There was about 30 fares aboard and everone was catching. We kept the 40+ biggest grunts and porgies we caught and used the smaller ones for cut bait. We managed a few short red grouper ( they need to be 20") and it was closed season for all other grouper in the gulf. Went home with a pile of fillets. Day 3 - We headed out to fish the pass between Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island from the shore. The water was in the low 50's and not a lot of bait in the water. I managed to jig up 1 small flounder, started fishing bait but there was only pinfish and juvenile seabass hitting. The morning fog burned off and we had our 2nd windless day and temps were climbing,

Day 4 - My buddy wasn't feeling up to the kayak trip we had planned but insisted I go. I fished the incoming tide behind Honeymoon Island and it was glass. There were small pods of redfish tailing in some very skinny water, that's always an impressive sight. but they were too busy digging with their noses to notice my offerings. Drifting and casting till I had multiple hits from trout and then would anchor. I would catch one or two trout and they would move on. Never really found a good concentration of fish but had four nice dinner trout in the cooler. Tried for reds along the mangroves, you could see the wakes from reds you pushed but they were not on the feed. Managed 1 over slot red (slot is 17-28") after 8 hours of paddling and casting it was time to go home and fillet some trout.

Day 5 - We headed up to Homosassa for a charter trip to the rock piles off of Crystal River. Crazy sea fog again but the water was glass again. We headed out on the Cristal River and stopped to harvest some oysters off a dock piling of chum. After an hour running time we anchored off a wreak in 10 ft. of water, the bite not happening. Another spot, nada. Third drop was a charm. We were fishing shrimp with a split shot in 8ft of water. I was sight casting off the bow to 6 & 7 lb. sheepshead. We kept our 12 biggest sheepies and 10 nice sized grunts. We went home with another pile of fillets. We crammed a lot of fishing into a few days and my buddy has a freezer full of fillets. The last day we went down to Venice beach and sifted for fossilized sharks teeth, we managed just over 100, if you've never done it , it's pretty cool. I'm hoping to get down for a longer visit next year and fish some new spots with my old fishing buddy.

With spring almost within casting range it's time to get ready.
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