Fishing improves after passage of Hurricane Irma

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Larry Gordon, Larry Joel, Williams Martin and Cease Marcias, all from northern Virginia, found the fish hungry after coping with Hurricane Irma. The group fished inshore and offshore Sept. 18-20 with Capt. Warren Girle and each day, using shiners for bait, they hooked up different species, including trout, bonita, snapper, grouper and, of course, the usual uninvited sharks.

For most of us the chores that follow a storm, especially one such as Hurricane Irma, can be long and lengthy.

For me, it’s kind of hard to say, “Honey, I’m going out fishing for the day,” when the yard is covered with fallen tree limbs, sections of fence are blown down, the windows are boarded up and there’s no power.

Trying to pull that one off might result in a cold shoulder from your significant other by the time you got back from fishing. By now, most of the chores are done, the power is back and the cable and Internet are back and we can all watch Bay News 9 again.

Now that things are close to normal, it’s time to go fishing. And let me tell you — the fishing is good right now.

On my recent Southernaire charters, I’m finding an abundance of spotted seatrout. On some flats, my clients are rallying on trout and reeling in catches of 30 or 40 fish.

Now, that’s all fine and good, however, probably half of these fish are just under 15 inches — the minimum size for seatrout. But hey, it’s great action and there are still a few fish to put in the cooler for a trout dinner that evening.

Fishing structure in Tampa Bay also is proving to be action-packed. Spanish mackerel are being found around wrecks and reefs, providing great action on light tackle. And I’m finding more and more anglers are interested in a few macks for dinner, especially if they’re from the U.K. To keep these toothy fish on the line, I’m using 30-pound fluorocarbon as a leader tied to either a No. 4 or No. 2 Eagle claw extra-long shank hook. In areas where the water is dark and stained from the pollutants flowing out of the Manatee River, the No. 2 hook will work. In clearer conditions, the No. 4 is the best choice. While free-lining shiners for the mackerel, I’m seeing an occasional mangrove snapper or grouper take the bait, which is always a welcome surprise.

Lastly, the snook bite is ever-improving on the flats. Remember, the water temperatures are slowly declining, which in turn is triggering those linesiders to start moving off the beaches, out of the passes and onto the flats to gorge themselves before winter. We are in the early stages of this snook movement, but you should see more and more fish as we near October and in the beginning of November.

On a final note, I hope everyone fared well during Hurricane Irma. I believe it could’ve been a lot worse, so we should count our blessings that we only had to deal with a Category 2 storm. This one was definitely an eye-opener. An emotional roller coaster of sorts.

I believe Floridians are strong in nature and, even in the wake of disaster, we help our friends and neighbors like they are family.

Back to fishing, Capt. Jason Stock is pursuing permit on some of the offshore wrecks and other structure. Free-lining live crabs in these areas is deadly when the permit are present. Most of the time, the bite is within seconds of the cast. Permit 10-20 pounds are the norm this week.

Moving inshore, Stock is finding action for clients on snook, redfish and spotted seatrout. All three are being taken via live shiners as bait. For the snook and reds, shallow flats where mangroves are present is key. As for the trout, deeper grass areas where good title flow exists are producing plenty of fish.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is fishing inshore throughout the lush grass flats of Tampa Bay southward to Sarasota Bay. On the deeper grass areas, Lowman is encountering plenty of spotted seatrout. Trout just under the 15-inch minimum are extremely abundant, which is providing great light-tackle action for Lowman’s clients. Slot-size trout are present for determined anglers looking to put a few fish in the box. On the shallow grass flats, Lowman is finding numerous schooley-size snook willing to take the bait. While targeting linesiders, Lowman is seeing an occasional redfish in the mix.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters also is working the flats of Tampa Bay as well as Terra Ceia Bay with good results. Using live shiners as bait is resulting in numerous hookups on snook, redfish and trout. According to Gross, all three species are in abundance with the trout being the most prevalent. Fishing deep grass flats where bait is present is resulting in trout on almost every cast. While on the shallower flats, chumming the waters is bringing the snook and redfish within casting range.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure in depths of 25-50 feet. These areas, consisting of artificial reefs, hard bottom and ledges, are holding a variety of species — mangrove snapper, red grouper, Key West grunts and flounder. For bait, Girle is using live shiners, which he is combining with a 1/2-ounce to 1-ounce knocker rig.

Girle warns that he’s finding a little patience helps when trying to achieve a limit of five fish.

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