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I retired March 2nd after 32 years. After a week, I told the wife, "I'm goin' fishin'. See ya in about a month." I headed to Tampa Bay in my F-150 loaded with camping gear and canoe. Found a cheap camp site at E. G. Simmons Park near Cockroach Bay. Everyone said the fishin' hadn't turned on yet because the water was still too cold, but I did find an occassional Spotted Seatrout in the mangroves at dawn and dusk. Also Ladyfish and a small Snook. Best lure was a large floating Rapalla.

One evening I watched several groups of Redfish come into the shallows to fed, but before I could catch any, a Dolphin came crashing in scattering the Redfish like frightened rabbits. Afterwards, they didn't seem eager to bite my offerings.

On March 20th my fishing buddy Ben arrived at the Tampa Airport. At the southern approach to the Skyway Bridge we scored on big Jacks which took both pinfish and lures, and Pompano and Sheepshead on pieces of live shrimp.

Leaving the Tampa area we headed north and camped on the Chassahowitzka. Largemouth Bass slurped our Rapallas in the clear freshwater portion, we fed Manatees lettuce and hooked a monsterous Snook on the big Rapalla out toward the saltwater which eventually escaped.

Next we found a $5.00 per night campground (we really are very cheap) at Shell Mound near Cedar Key. Here, the Redfish were cooperative, albiet most were just under sized. Live shrimp and a Sassy Shad did the trick. The water is really shallow here and, although you might think a canoe is perfect, it draws more water than an Airboat which can glide across the mud flats like a skatter on ice.

Finally, we travelled up to the panhandle and camped at the Ochlockonee River State Park. On the river, Largemouth Bass were hungry in the evenings. In the Saltwater, Ben got a 20 " Redfish under the bridge over Ochlockonee Bay on a live shrimp and I caught a 21" Spotted Seatrout on a live sand trout off Alligator Point.

I'm home now and thinking about Shad fishing.
 
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