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November 19, 2008

Brawling at the Bar

Find two-fisted fishing action in the Florida Keys this winter.

You won't need any numbers to find the spot. Just head due south of Boca Grande Key for about eight miles; then keep an eye out for the fleet. Try to find a spot where you can anchor shallow, letting the wind,   current and tide carry you off the edge into deeper water - staying ever  conscious of other boats around you.

Creating the Hatch
For the most part, targeting both  bottom and pelagic species here follows a pretty simple script - assuming you can throw a 12-foot cast net. The day begins by amassing 40 or 50 pounds of live pilchards to use as live chum.

"We don't match the hatch here," says Trosset, who runs the 34 Yellowfin, Spindrift. "We create it."

Skippers start things off by  anchoring up and deploying a chum block of ground-up frozen sardines or menhaden. The scent corridor created by the oily mishmash helps game fish and bottom species home in on the source. Then, captains start doling out the freebies to get things going.

"Most anglers and captains are way too aggressive when chumming with live baits," says Trosset. "The key is putting enough in the water to get fish to line up behind your boat. Start with 15 or 20 baits, not 150."

Chumming sparsely but adequately becomes even more critical when anchoring in a group of boats that already have fish behind them. "A lot of young guys come in, anchor right next to you and start dumping their well, netful after netful," says Trosset. "This spreads out the fish. Rather than lining up behind the fleet and feeding in waves, they run off willy-nilly, chasing big bunches of pilchards. It's counterproductive to your goal."