Fishing for migratory species stays hot as temps stay warm
With temperatures remaining mostly warm in December, fishing is following suit. Water temps are back into the low 70s, which is a welcome sight. Migratory fish such as ladyfish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and bluefish are lingering in the bays and passes since the water isn’t cold enough to push them south. Other migratory fish, such as pompano, are making a showing along the beaches as well as in the local bays.
On the flats, trout are responding to live shrimp under a cork or soft plastics combined with a jighead. Either method is effective, although drifting and jigging allows you to cover a vast expanse of grass flats, whereas fishing with shrimp is more spot-specific. Basically, if you know where a concentration of fish are, you can use shrimp, if you don’t, try drifting and jigging.
Finally, fishing nearshore structure is a good bet if you’re looking for groceries. Snapper, Key West grunts, sheepshead and flounder are responding to live shrimp fished on the bottom. The snapper and grunts are fairly abundant, but the flounder and sheepy bite is sporadic. Ultimately, this method of fishing will contribute fillets to the deep fryer — and good tasting ones, too.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing the flats of Sarasota Bay resulting in a variety of species. By using fresh-cut pieces of ladyfish, Girle’s clients are hooking into slot-size redfish. To find the reds, Girle instructs his clients to cast ladyfish chunks into sandy potholes in water depths of 2-3 feet. Some redfish respond greatly to scent. Girle is managing to put limits of fish in the box for his clients.
Next, Girle is moving to slightly deeper water and is switching over to drifting and casting shrimp-tipped pompano jigs. By using this method of fishing, Girle’s clients are reeling up Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle and pompano. This bite is fairly consistent, which provides good action on light tackle.
Finally, on calm days, Girle is venturing into the Gulf of Mexico. By using fresh-cut live shiners for bait, Girle’s clients are hooking up snapper 15-20-inches. Along with snapper, juvenile grouper and keeper-size flounder are responding to cut bait fished on the bottom.
Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says pier fishers using live shrimp for bait are finding a variety of species. Flounder, black drum and juvenile grouper are readily taking baits fished under the pier. Keeper-size drum and flounder can be expected, although the grouper being caught are barely 12 inches in length.
Migratory fish, such as Spanish mackerel, jacks and ladyfish, are finding the pier. Timing is everything when targeting these fish. Typically, these fish are caught as they pass the pier on their way in or out of Tampa Bay. Silver spoons, Gotcha plugs or small white crappie jigs are a good choice when targeting these fish. Combine these with a fast retrieve and you may see results.
At Island Discount Tackle, the guys are busy preparing for the Christmas rush, but they’re still managing to fit in a little fishing.
On the beaches, pompano are responding to pompano jigs tipped with a pink teaser fly. By jigging through the trough that runs parallel to the shoreline, beach fishers are managing to pull pompano out during early morning hours. Although the pompano bite is sporadic, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish and jack crevalle are filling the void.
On the flats of Anna Maria Sound, drifting and jigging with soft plastics is proving prosperous for spotted seatrout. The Key Royale flats, as well as the flats around the bulkhead and the mouth of Manatee River, are holding decent numbers of fish. Persistence is key because most trout being caught are undersized.
Finally, nearshore structure is still producing a snapper bite. Fresh-cut shiners and threadfin herring are a good bet to tie into these tasty fish. Live shrimp are a good bet to use for bait, too. Expect to find snapper anywhere in the range of 8-18 inches. By-catch on nearshore structure is resulting in flounder, Key West grunts and even a few sheepshead.
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