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Christmas Shopping at Your Local Bait Shop
By Jonie Maschek
Dec 4, 2008 - 10:56:28 AM

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It is December and time to remember. Christmas arrives in 21 days. Have you visited your local bait shops lately? 
Larry Wilson at One Stop

The walls and shelves are full of gifts for the angler in your life. If you love color, you can find lures of all hues, from pink to sky-blue.

Throw nets come in color too, and in many sizes. The person at the bait shop will tell you what all the nets do and will be happy to help you. They even have crab traps and it is legal to have five.

Lines come in color or plain white; it is up to you what is right. There are reels of all sizes. It may be difficult to buy, but ask the person at the bait shop and he will give it a try.

Poles are for various types of fishing and it is best you know in which waterways your mate goes. Freshwater anglers have different gear than those who fish in salt­water all year.

Tackle boxes are small, or big, with a lot of shelves for spoons to jigs. It is the law that life jackets be worn. If you want to know more, just give them a call.
One Stop in Gibsonton, owned by Larry Wilson, has stocked a good variety of various items an angler would want in his Christmas stocking. A child’s first fishing pole would be a great gift for our anglers of tomorrow.

If a new boat is on his wish list, I suggest you read the want ads or watch driveways where boats are for sale. Some sell because they are buying a new boat, others are not taking their boat out anymore. Whatever it be, you can get a good bargain if you know how to shop for a boat, and if you don’t, take someone along that does know.

You might be in the market for a canoe, or a kayak. Probably a mall marine store or boat store would be the place to find this gift. Some bait shops will sell you gift certificates for shrimp or bait.

How about a charter trip -- where the person you are buying for takes nothing along, leaving everything up to the captain of the vessel.

Many books are out there on “How To”  catch a snook, a trout, a cobia, pan fish, bass, mullet, and a dozen more. These would make a great gift.

Sunglasses are a must on our waterways and he might not have a Polaroid pair, which are great to see the fish in the clear water. Sunscreen -- if he is new to the area. A gift for most anyone, male or female, would be a hat or cap.

Your bait shops not only have bait, but gifts for all on your ­angler’s list.

While sitting home on a cold day, clean out your tackle box and take out the items that you have not used all year long. How long has it been since you have changed the line on your reels? They become old and frayed; you might lose that big one if your line breaks.

Check the line on your anchor. Is it secure? Check your motor. Is it in top condition? Do you have life jackets for adults and children? Are your life jackets up to date and in top condition?

If you trailer your boat, check your tires and lights. Is your bait well in top conditon? Be sure you have a legal license for saltwater and freshwater fishing.
If you have a new boat and don’t know our waterways, please take a course with the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Call these numbers for boating classes or boat inspection. Ruskin, 677-2822; Brandon, 689-1338; and Tampa, 855-6997.
To report oil spills, marine violations, boating accident, manatee or dolphin injuries, call 272-2516.

Fishing is great in warm or cold weather. This is a great time of year to fish for largemouth bass. Our upper waters of the Alafia and the Little Manatee Rivers are fresh water and a great spot to go bass fishing. You must have a fresh­water fishing license to fish in these areas.

I have had phone calls about eels. They are in both salt and fresh water. The sharp-tailed eel is common in this area. It has many round spots and is brownish in color. It is found mostly on the Grouper banks off Tampa Bay. It is one of the snake eels.

Slime eels are very slimy and found in shallow waters. Great ­siren eels, also called mud eels, most always are buried in water and mud. There are 17 or more types of eels that one might catch in our waterways.

The American eel is a common eel. It has an average size of 18”. They live in the ocean and then migrate to fresh or brackish water and live in the mud. The electric eel is a destructive eel and migrates to freshwater streams and lakes. “Fish Tales” has been told that horses have been killed by the shock of this fish. They came from South American rivers in Brazil.

Grouper have been playing all week around the ship channels and have been boated by some happy anglers. These catches are not red grouper, but gag, which is browning-gray to greenish with blurred dark stripes running back from the eye area.

Some think the spots on them look like kisses. They are an ­excellent food value. Many Florida anglers call this gag “black grouper.” Limit is two per day measuring 22”.
Flounder have been a great catch this week with anglers catching them along with their snook catches. Those I have seen were large and when dressed and stuffed with crabmeat would make a great dinner.

Remember in cold weather that snook look for a spot to hide, like deep holes. They move on when the water temperature drops below 60º. Black drum are swimming and churning our rivers. They will give you a workout while trying to boat them. As I always have told you -- watch out for worms in the big ones. Sheepshead are a good tablefare of lean white meat and being caught by those who are fishing from bridges and piers.

Redfish have been lazy in the cold weather and have not surfaced for the bait that is being tossed to them. Reports tell us that they are out there, but you need to catch them when they are hungry.

Cobia are still in the warm ­waters coming out of the power plant in Apollo Beach. Snook season ends Monday, Dec. 15, so go to the holes around the roots of the mangroves and make a catch ­before the season is over.

Be safe, be kind, check your gear, and don’t drive your boat with too much cheer.
-- Aleta Jonie Maschek is a ­member of Florida Outdoor Press­.

© Copyright 2008 by The Observer News Publications and M&M Printing Company, Inc.

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