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Once weather warms up, fishing will, too

This weather isn’t all that bad.

OK, maybe the Manatee River is about the best option there’s been to fish with these belly-twisting conditions, and at least you can take cover on the leeward side of the river.

But it’s not all that bad.

Use such blasts of cold weather to your advantage. Get the rods ready. All of them. Because once this weather warms up, and for the love of flounder let’s hope no more blasted fronts come through this spring, the fishing is going to be, as some of us anglers like to say, just dumb.

In fact, the only problem will be deciding what you want to fish for.

Snook? Go for it. The linesiders will be lethargic for a couple more days before they continue to chew on the flats before eventually staging up in the passes and fattening up in preparation for their summer spawn off the beaches. Even now, however, big snook can be found far up the river. You may even hook into a 30-plus-pounder, those old snook that are done spawning, and so stay idle in the river to the point they grow moss on their backs.

Kingfish have been teasing us for awhile, and in this area they’ll play hard to get a little longer. Kingfish can’t stand dirty water, and winds have stirred and muddied waters off the beaches. Anglers may need to go at least 10 miles offshore to find clean water. But any day now, anglers teetering off the Skyway pier and leaning over the gunnels of their boats should be shouting at the sizzling of their lines.

The point is to be prepared. First, make sure all of your tackle is oiled, polished and repaired. Capt. Thom Smith of Anglers Repair can take care of anglers needing last-minute rod and reel repairs for the upcoming fishing boom and local tournament season. For drop-off locations, call 776-2352 or 737-5672.

In saltwater, bringing a variety of outfits can be vital to fishing success.

For example, make sure that as you fish for snook, redfish and trout, you have a rod ready for that stray cobia. Cobia may be around the boat for only 10 seconds, so prepare with a medium-heavy rod with 25- or 30-pound test line, a 50-pound fluorocarbon leader, and a cobia-enticing bait such as a white bucktail jig with a rubber worm, or a plastic eel.

Capt. Rick Gross of the charter boat Fishy Business likes to belly-hook a pinfish for cobia.

“Cobia don’t always like to come right to the surface,” Gross said. “I find it’s better if the bait goes down. If the bait dives like it’s going away from them, they’re naturally going to go after it.”

To keep the cobia around the boat longer, anglers can toss out a few shiners before casting out.

Also, keep some wire leader onboard for kingfish or big Spanish mackerel.

In freshwater, April means bluegill are spawning and bass will be lying off the bluegill beds, waiting to gobble up the bluegill fry. Anglers can use small, June bug or purple-green colors baits to nab the lurking bass. If the beds are in 10 feet of water, catfish could be lying off the beds as well.

Speckled perch will start going to deeper water, but numbers are down because they’re coming off a spawn.

So don’t let this foul weather fool you.

It’s just the storm before the real storm.

Nick Walter, outdoors writer, can be reached at 745-7013.

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