Summer fishing remains hot — enjoy it while it lasts
Once again, mangrove snapper seems to be the topic upon arrival at the dock. On nearly all of my recent charters, limits of snapper are being filleted at the cleaning table. Sizes of these fish range 12-18 inches — a welcome sight for inshore fishers.
Another welcome bite is flounder. These flat fish are beginning to make a showing. On a recent charter with Bert Rawald, we managed to catch a couple of flounder in the 20-inch range, which is a respectable-sized fish for our area.
Spanish mackerel and ladyfish are patrolling the beaches, migrating from bait school to bait school in search of a meal. Live shiners are a sure-fire way to catch these high-activity fish, although artificials such as small jigs, spoons or Gotcha plugs will do almost as well.
Finally, catch-and-release shark fishing remains consistent around the mouth of Tampa Bay. Blacktip sharks 4-6 feet are the most abundant, although I’m seeing spinner sharks and bull sharks on the end of the line, too.
Capt. Aaron Lowman at Island Discount Tackle is catching respectable numbers of spotted seatrout in Anna Maria Sound. To catch these yellow-mouthed fish, Lowman is free-lining live shiners among deeper grass flats behind the boat while at anchor. Rigging with a popping cork is producing a bite, according to Lowman. Spotted seatrout in the slot of 15-20 inches are the norm, although larger fish are present. You can also expect to catch a variety of other species while targeting trout. These include Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, jack crevalle and even a flounder or two, if you’re lucky.
Fishing nearshore and inshore structure is producing mangrove snapper for Lowman. By bottom fishing with a knocker rig consisting of a 1/2-ounce egg sinker and a circle hook, he is producing limits of these fish for his clients.
Finally, Lowman is dock fishing for redfish. Although redfish are being elusive, Lowman is managing to catch one or two to put in the cooler. Live shiners combined with a knocker rig are producing a bite. Working the higher tides around residential docks is a good recipe for success.
Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure with good results. By using live shiners for bait, Girle is reeling up limits of mangrove snapper between 12- and 18-inches. To catch these fish, Girle is rigging one of two ways. If the fish rise to the surface, Girle is simply using a 5-6 foot length of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader connected to a small circle hook. This rig enables his clients to drift small fresh-cut pieces of bait to the fish. If the snapper tend to stay down deep toward the bottom, Girle is using the same rig, adding a split-shot about 20 inches above the hook.
While targeting snapper, Girle is catching Key West grunts, flounder and juvenile red grouper. He says you can expect to encounter Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and the occasional bonito.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says fishing remains consistent for Spanish mackerel during the hours surrounding sunrise. Small jigs — white, chartreuse or bubble gum — are catching macks up to 18 inches. Silver spoons and Gotcha plugs are producing a bite.
Bait fishers at the R&R are being rewarded with mangrove snapper and flounder. By dropping live shrimp or shiners under the pier, fishers are reeling up keeper-sizes of both species. Along with these are the occasional black drum and plenty of pinfish and grunts.
Finally, snook are congregating around the pier once again. Live shiners, pinfish, ladyfish or what have you, will produce a bite from the linesiders. Just remember to handle them delicately before you release them.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is getting good results on Terra Ceia Bay seatrout. Gross is finding rallies of these popular backcountry fish during early morning high tides. By free-lining shiners on the grass flats, Gross is leading his clients to slot- and over-slot trout. If free-lining is not working, Gross is simply adding a popping cork to his rig to aid in keeping the bait at a certain depth. While catching trout, Gross is also reeling up mangrove snapper, flounder and ladyfish.
Around rocks and docks, Gross is hooking up more mangrove snapper. Most are 12-15 inches and are being caught on live or fresh-cut pieces shiners. Along with snapper, Gross is finding flounder, Key West grunts and triggerfish around structure — especially the nearshore reefs.
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