Rain, rain stay away — it’s time to go fishin’
Despite the monsoon that fell over our waters for nearly a week, area fishers are finding a good bite.
Fishing the flats for spotted seatrout is still a good bet. Most catches are 12-14 inches which, although just below the legal limit of 15 inches, still provides good action on the water. Mixed in with the trout bite is a whole assortment of other species — Spanish mackerel, bluefish, jack crevalle and ladyfish.
Fishing reefs and wrecks in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico is proving productive for mangrove snapper. Small, live shiners on a knocker rig are working most of the time. When the snapper get weird, you can free-line baits or even pieces of bait to get a bite.
On Southernaire Fishing Charters, I’m guiding clients to snapper. I like chumming the snapper with fresh dead shiners. Once the snapper are schooled up and happy, feeding in the chum, I like to free-line baits into the fish. For rigging, I’m using about 10 feet of 15-pound fluorocarbon for a leader with a No. 4 hook added to the rig. A lot of times I’m using just a half piece of bait and burying the hook in it so the snapper doesn’t shy away.
This method is resulting in limits of snapper — sometimes 12-15 inches for my clients. While targeting snapper, we’re getting cut off by mackerel, but also catching a few macks, thanks to the small hooks and light leader.
On the flats, I’m finding seatrout quite accommodating. Free-lined live shiners are quickly being eaten by the hungry trout that are taking up residence over the deep grass flats of Tampa Bay. A lot of the trout are just below slot-size but, with determination, anglers are reeling up their limits of keeper fish.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing most fishers catching mangrove snapper. Live shrimp fished under the pier on a weighted rig are quickly being taken by the hungry mangrove snapper. Most catches are 10-14 inches. Fishers targeting snapper are catching the sheepshead, black drum and flounder.
The highlight of the week or possibly the whole year at the R&R is the catch and release of a sawfish. An estimated 10-foot smallmouth sawfish was caught by Dean Franklin of Bradenton. Franklin was looking for shark with a piece of cut ladyfish when the unsuspecting sawfish came by and decided to take the hook. Franklin walked the fish up to the shore, where he observed the saw was intact and the fish was released.
For FAQ on smalltooth sawfish, a member of the ray family and an endangered species since 2003, go online to myfwc.com/research/saltwater/fish/sawfish/faq/.
Capt. Warren Girle is working offshore for mangrove snapper when the weather permits. Mangrove snapper 15-20 inches are responding to live shiners fished on a knocker rig. Artificial reefs and ledges are top producers for Girle when he’s targeting snapper. While reeling up snapper, Girle clients also are hooking into an occasional barracuda.
Moving inshore, Girle is finding his share of spotted seatrout. Throughout the deeper grass flats of Sarasota Bay, Girle’s anglers are catching trout by free-lining live shiners for bait. Mixed in with the trout are ladyfish, bluefish and Spanish mackerel.
Capt. Aaron Lowman is targeting spotted seatrout in Anna Maria Sound and southern Tampa Bay. Fishing clear water where deep grass is present is producing good numbers of trout for Lowman’s charter anglers. Live shiners free-lined or slightly weighted with a split shot are resulting in fish up to 22 inches.
Fishing rocks and docks is providing plenty of action on Lowman’s charters. He says the shaded areas around residential docks provide cooler water, which produces more oxygenated water. Flounder, redfish and mangrove snapper are being taken from these shaded areas and live shiners are the bait of choice.
Capt. Jason Stock is fishing offshore with good results. By anchoring over ledges and hard bottom, Stock is finding some cooperative mangrove snapper. By chumming with dead shiners, Stock is luring the snapper up from the bottom and then drifting baits to the feeding fish. His method is resulting in snapper up to 20 inches for his clients. In these same areas, Stock is finding Goliath grouper.
By fishing the offshore wrecks, Stock is catching respectable numbers of permit. Small pass crabs drifted back in the current over the wreck are triggering permit in the 20-pound range to bite the hook.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is targeting catch-and-release snook around mangrove islands and oyster bars. Live shiners fished under a cork in these areas are producing snook 20-30 inches. Mixed in with the snook are the occasional redfish or gator trout.
Fishing structure in Tampa Bay is resulting in a multitude of mangrove snapper. To catch these snapper, Gross is using a light fluorocarbon leader of 15-pound test combined with a small No. 4 hook. By scaling down his terminal tackle, Gross is leading his clients to limits of 12-15 inch snapper.
Capt. David White of Great White charters says the redfish bite is picking up. Slightly cooler temperatures seem to have triggered the reds into a favorable feeding pattern, ready to hook up with clients on a free-lined pilchard under a popping cork.
White also is targeting spotted seatrout on the edges of the deeper flats.
Macks seem to be everywhere and long-shanked hooks with a shiner or a Gotcha plug are working for these high-activity fish. There seems to be quite a few ladyfish mixed in with them — always good for a jump or two, says White.
White has been finding some nice flounder on the edges of the reefs. He says a knocker rig with a big bait will do the trick for these fish. You may grab a snapper or two in the process, he adds.
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