Finds for the cooler and catch-and-release in Tampa Bay

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Sam and Ian True, from Anna Maria and the United Kingdom, fish offshore Oct. 6 with Capt. Warren Girle. They used live shiners for bait and found snapper and mackerel were plentiful. Islander Courtesy Photo

Fishing to the east of Anna Maria Island in Tampa Bay and its surrounding waters is producing a variety of species.

Fishing structures around the Sunshine State Skyway Bridge is yielding Spanish mackerel, bluefish and jack crevalle, as well as limits of mangrove snapper.

Luckily, red tide is staying out of Tampa Bay, which is a refuge for these fish.

On the flats, snook, redfish and trout are taking refuge. Don’t forget that snook and redfish are closed to harvest until further notice from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. If you get caught with either fish in the cooler, you will get a ticket — no excuses.

On my own trips with Southernaire, I’m finding great action on the flats for catch-and-release snook and redfish. Free-lining live shiners over flats of 2-4 feet is producing some great rallies on both species.

When searching for fish to eat, I’m fishing deep grass flats for spotted seatrout. Most catches are falling just under the 15-inch minimum but, with a little persistence, I’m getting a few slot-size fish in the cooler.

Other species for eating include mangrove snapper and Spanish mackerel. For the snapper, I’m catching most around structure in Tampa Bay. On some days, I’m finding limits to be caught on the flats.

As for the mackerel, structure is the best bet.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing inshore for a variety of species. Fishing structure in Tampa Bay is yielding limits of mangrove snapper. Using small shiners as bait, combined with a knocker rig is attracting snapper 12-16 inches.

Removing the knocker and free-lining shiners is producing action around structure. Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and bluefish are abundant in Tampa Bay and free-lining shiners is producing nonstop action on these voracious fish.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business Charters is fishing southern Tampa Bay and its waters to the east, for a number of species. Catch-and-release snook and redfish, as well as tarpon, jack crevalle and ladyfish, are being caught consistently.

Longnose gar are being caught when fishing in the Manatee River.

For those wanting to catch something to take home for dinner, Gross is leading to numerous mangrove snapper, spotted seatrout and flounder. For bait, small shiners or hatch bait work best. When using these small baits, Gross suggests using a small hook, such as a size-4, to match the size of the bait.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is catching his share of Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper while fishing in Tampa Bay. Fishing structure is producing the best action. Small, free-lined shiners or shiners on weighted rigs work best.

Moving to the flats, Lowman is catching many catch-and-release snook as well as some catch-and-release redfish. Spotted seatrout are taking the hook in these areas.

Capt. David White of Anna Maria Charters is fishing offshore when the seas are calm and the winds are light.

In depths of 80-100 feet, White is finding red grouper, amberjack and a variety of snapper. For the grouper and snapper bottom rigs combined with live or dead bait are producing. For the AJs, live pinfish on a free-lined rig around wrecks work well.

Moving inshore, White is catching many catch-and-release snook on the flats.

Fishing shallow structure in Tampa Bay is yielding Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper.


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