Fishing – 12-16-2015

How to find fish for the cooler? Avoid areas with red tide


With red tide still being reported throughout our region, opportunity for the local fishing may seem bleak.

Don’t be discouraged. Finding fish that will bite may be more challenging, but there are fish to be caught.

On my charters, I’m migrating to the Gulf of Mexico in search of water free of red tide. Around the artificial reefs, there is still a multitude of action to be found. In fact, I haven’t really noticed much of a decline in fishing out there. We are reeling up plenty of mangrove snapper and flounder, as well as small grouper and grunts.

When free-lining baits behind the boat, hungry Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and blue runners are breaking the surface of the water, eagerly attacking our offerings. Don’t be surprised to see the occasional blacktip or spinner shark cruise through the vicinity to investigate the commotion. Keep your eyes peeled for the occasional cobia, too.

Cobia like to frequent structure and you never know when one will pop up. It’s best to have a heavy action rod rigged and ready for the brown bomber in the event one cruises by your boat.

Now, as far as the flats go, I am not seeing much action. Spotted seatrout are available, although the bite is challenging. The same goes for reds and snook. There are some available, but getting them to rally is tough.

My advice is stick to fishing the beaches, reefs and ledges. The action is good and you’re likely to come up with some nice fish to take home for dinner.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure to avoid the effects of red tide. While fishing the artificial reefs with live shiners as bait, Girle is leading clients to reef-dwelling species. By bottom fishing, Girle’s clients are reeling up mangrove snapper, flounder and catch-and-release gag grouper — the gags are presently out of season.

Free-lining live baits on the surface at the reefs is resulting in catches of Spanish mackerel, kingfish and the occasional cobia.

Moving inshore, Girle is searching for areas on the flats for clean water — clear of the tell-tale dead fish on the surface. When he succeeds, he’s finding slot-size redfish and spotted seatrout — both coming to the hook on live shiners.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is hunting fish for his well from southern Tampa Bay to Sarasota Bay with good results. Using live shrimp as bait around docks and small rock piles is resulting in catches of flounder, sheepshead and mangrove snapper. All of these fish are being taken by casting weighted or “bottom rigs” baited with live shrimp. Also, while fishing docks, Lowman’s clients are picking up the occasional redfish and sometimes a skirmish with a catch-and-release snook.

Moving out to the artificial reefs, Lowman is putting clients on mangrove snapper in the 12-16 inch range. These tasty fish are readily taking live shiners combined with a bottom rig. While targeting snapper, juvenile grouper and Key West grunts also come up on the hook.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says, “No, you don’t need a permit to catch permit, although you do need to know what they are.” Pier fishers using small jigs tipped with shrimp or just plain live shrimp are catching juvenile permit in the shallows around the beach end of the pier. For those pier fishers in the know, these fish can be a real treat. For one, they often don’t get caught at the pier and, secondly, they put up a great fight on light tackle.

Other species being caught on live shrimp at the pier are black drum, flounder and sheepshead. Make sure to use a weighted rig to get your shrimp down to where the fish are — on the bottom.

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