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Between the tarpon

5/21/2010

Editor's note: ESPNOutdoors.com will focus on tarpon, providing a series of articles and features detailing the annual run of the silver kings in our Tarpon Trek.

Famous for tarpon, Florida's Boca Grande area also holds a bounty of world-class fishing opportunities in and around its heralded pass. Between the optimal poon times, keep your day going with one of the many adjacent angling options.

On the north side of the pass, an old phosphate dock holds hordes of huge goliath grouper, many in the triple-digit range. Goliaths are fun for about 30 seconds, but they're hard to stop, even with stump-puller conventional outfits.

Loads of keeper grouper and snapper provide more manageable bottom fishing targets along the rocky drop-offs of Boca Grande Pass and seaward along the channel edges, as well as isolated limestone outcroppings inside the pass.
Dropping live pinfish and pilchards or trolling diving plugs will bend the rods. Just don't troll amid the tarpon fleet or you'll draw the ire of many. Hard bottom areas attract baitfish schools, so expect Spanish mackerel, cobia and small sharks to move in and out of the deeper water to feed.

During summer months, beach fishing along Cayo Costa and Gasparilla Island can yield tremendous snook action, as the linesiders gather for spawning.

Snook spawn mostly on the strong tides of new and full moons, but between these periods, they feed aggressively along beach shallows. Wade shin deep and cast live pilchards, white or chartreuse bucktail jigs or small swimbaits parallel to the beach.

You'll also find snook around residential docks, but for an insane bite, visit the phosphate dock when outgoing tides pull strong currents past this feeding station. Live baitfish or crabs tossed between the pilings draw some of the most vicious snook strikes imaginable. Medium-heavy rods, braided line, 80-pound fluorocarbon leader and quick response are the requisites here.

Remember: Snook harvest remains closed through August, so carefully release all linesiders.

Elsewhere, grass flats with sandy potholes attract spotted sea trout, redfish and pompano, while flounder lay hidden on the bottom along sandy bars and under docks. Just a short run from the pass, nearshore wrecks as shallow as 20 feet hold kingfish, barracuda and hard-charging permit.