The fishing is heating up much like the weather.
Fishing the flats for redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook is in full swing. You also can start finding snook in the passes and along the beaches during calm mornings or evenings.
Fishing offshore is heating up with reports of blackfin tuna, cobia, permit and king mackerel. Days with light winds or no winds at all are most favorable in deep waters. Grouper and snapper also are being caught.
On my own Southernaire charter adventures, I’m putting anglers on numerous spotted seatrout throughout the flats of southern Tampa Bay and its surrounding waters. Live shiners free-lined over deeper flats of 6-8 feet where clear water from the Gulf is flowing into the bay is proving most productive. Spotted seatrout up to 22 inches are being caught, with most catches 16-18 inches.
Catch-and-release snook fishing remains a favorite pastime for my clients. Spending an hour or so rallying on 20-26 inchers is a great way to take the edge off the morning. While targeting these snook, I’m stumbling on a sporadic redfish bite. At least there’s a bite. Most catches are 16-24 inches.
Lastly, fishing nearshore structure is starting to produce some mangrove snapper. Live shiners on a 1/2-ounce knocker rig are attracting mangoes up to 18 inches in as little as 15 feet of water. Mixed in with the snapper are flounder and juvenile grouper.
Capt. Aaron Lowman also is hunting inshore for the popular trio of redfish, spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook. For the reds and snook, Lowman is finding areas where oyster bars and mangrove roots are present. He also favors big falling tides when targeting these species. For the spotted seatrout, deep grass flats where clean water is swiftly flowing is proving productive. Mixed in with the trout are bluefish, jack crevalle and ladyfish.
Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is working offshore with good results. Fishing hard bottom in depths of 120 feet is resulting in big red grouper. Mixed in are local snappers — American red, lane, mangrove, vermilion and yellowtail. Wreck fishing offshore is producing blackfin tuna, permit, cobia and amberjack for White’s anglers.
Capt. Warren Girle is targeting tarpon along the beaches of Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island. Live crabs and threadfin herring cast into schooling fish are producing a bite. Although it’s the early stage of tarpon season, Girle is jumping fish on a daily basis.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is easing around the lush grass flats of Tampa Bay, where ,on deeper flats in 6-8 feet of water, he’s putting clients on spotted seatrout with either live free-lined shiners or shiners rigged under a popping cork. Mixed in with the trout bite are bluefish and Spanish mackerel. On shallower flats of 3 feet or less, Gross is finding redfish. Mangroves and oyster bars make up the habitat where the reds lurk.
Finally, catch-and-release snook are being found in the passes and along the beaches. Sight-casting to these fish with live shiners is resulting in fish up to 30 inches for Gross’ clients.
Capt. Jason Stock is running charters offshore with good results around wrecks and reefs. He’s leading clients to blackfin tuna, king mackerel, permit, cobia and goliath grouper. For the migratory fish — tuna, macks and cobia — live shiners, threadfin herring and pinfish are working well. As for the permit, a tasty little pass crab will do the trick. Finally, for the goliaths, any large bait — whole jack or mackerel — will suffice.
Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier is seeing a variety of fish reeled up to the boards. Mangrove snapper, flounder and redfish are just a few of the species he’s reporting are being caught at the pier. Catch-and-release snook also are being caught occasionally. Finally, Spanish mackerel and jack crevalle can be caught with the use of small jigs or silver spoons.
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