Beat the clock, beat the heat to get a hook up
With water temps in Tampa Bay and the surrounding waters reaching the mid-80s, it’s time to fish early and late in day.
Midday fishing in the heat is not only uncomfortable for us, but also for the fish. You likely will find your target more active during early morning hours or at night, when water temps are slightly cooler. If you are fishing midday, try getting to deeper water. The artificial reefs are a good option. At least you can bottom fish for snapper or other reef inhabitants that aren’t as affected by the warm surface temperature.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says Spanish mackerel are skyrocketing through schools of hatch bait at sunrise. Pier fishers using small white crappie jigs are reeling up keeper-size fish until the bait disappears. While targeting macks, expect to catch blue runners, jacks and ladyfish.
Pier fishers using live shrimp as bait are catching mangrove snapper and flounder. For either species, try adding a small split shot 12 inches above the hook to keep your bait toward the bottom. Casting underneath the pier is probably a good idea, too.
Finally, night fishers are catching blacktip and sharp nose sharks on fresh-cut mackerel or ladyfish. Remember to plan accordingly when selecting gear to tackle these fish. You never know when a big one is going to take your bait, your leader, your line and all.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing the arrival of mangrove snapper. He says the snapper appearing around the piers are smart, so anglers need to be stealthy in their approach. A small live bait hook with some 15-pound fluorocarbon leader should do the trick. Bait of choice for the mangos has been small live shrimp.
Spanish mackerel are cutting pier fishers’ lines during the early morning tides. Malfese suggests sunrise fishing to get in on the action. Small white jigs and Gotcha plugs will get you hooked up.
Finally, Malfese says R&R fishers are occasionally catching sharks. Small black tips, bonnetheads and sharp nose sharks are the usual suspects. While fishing at the Rod & Reel, keep in mind that all shark fishing there is all catch and release.
Steve Oldham at Island Discount Tackle is fishing the flats of Southern Tampa Bay for spotted seatrout. By free-lining live shiners behind the boat, Oldham is catching trout 15-18 inches. For jigging, Oldham is using 4-5 feet of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader connected to a No. 2 Eagle Claw live bait hook.
Once finished trout fishing, Oldham moves to some of the small wrecks and rock piles in Tampa Bay, where Spanish mackerel are being caught on free-lined shiners combined with a long shank hook and some 30-pound fluorocarbon.
Also on shallow water structure, Oldham is catching small gag grouper, as well as a couple keeper-size fish, too. Remember, on July 1 those keeper-size gags can go in the box.
On a final note from Oldham, tarpon fishing is still going strong along the beaches of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. Anglers need to carry an assortment of baits, such as crabs, threadies, pinfish and shiners to accommodate the finicky tastes of the silver king. Fish up to 160 pounds are being reported.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is working the grass flats from Terra Ceia Bay all the way to Sarasota Bay. By using live shiners free-lined behind the boat, Gross is finding plenty of catch-and-release snook. And some big ones, too. Gross says the slot and over-slot fish are feeding during moving tides along mangrove edges and on grass flats. To get these snook to bite, Gross likes to use about 4 feet of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader connected to a small live bait hook. Add a shiner to that combo and you’re in business.
Gross also is getting good action on spotted seatrout. Again, he is fishing grass flats, although for trout he likes to look slightly deeper. Grass flats in the 5-6 foot depth are ideal for free-lining live shiners behind the boat that bring in average-size trout of 18-22 inches.
Capt. Warren Girle is targeting tarpon off the beaches of Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island. For bait, Girle is using live blue or pass crabs. Multiple hookups are possible, he says, when the fish are happy. The less boat pressure, the better. Average size of the silver bombers in the past week for hookups was 80-150 pounds.
Moving offshore, Girle is finding permit in the 20-pound range. To find and catch these elusive fish, Girle is anchoring over structure and free-lining small, live pass crabs in the tide.
Along with permit, Girle is catching amber jack, barracuda and sharks. For the AJs, Girle is chumming with live shiners and then casting a bait unto the feeding frenzy. For the ’cuda and sharks, chunk or live mackerel will get you hooked up.
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