Inshore, offshore hookups remain as fall, cooler temps arrive

thumb image
Skip Tubbs, visiting Anna Maria Island from Montana, shows off a 28-inch catch-and-release snook, hooked up inshore Sept. 20 using a live shiner for bait. Tubbs was guided to the fish by Capt. Warren Girle.

With overnight and morning air temps in the low- to mid-70s, fishing around Anna Maria Island is getting better as we transition to fall.

Water temps are falling to the mid-70s, too, which is really getting the popular inshore trio of catch-and-release — snook, redfish and trout — species to start feeding heavily.

With an abundance of bait schools in Tampa Bay and along the beaches, we should begin to see an influx of migratory fish — Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and ladyfish — for a showing. And don’t forget the snappers and groupers are arriving, too.

Inshore, mangrove snapper are being found on the flats and over structure in abundance. As for the grouper, gags are being caught in Tampa Bay with some regularity. Live bait presentations and trolling deep-diving plugs are working for these fish.

Moving offshore, reports of amberjack are becoming more frequent and snapper fishing, both yellowtails and mangroves, is quite good.

On my Southernaire charters, my sport anglers are seeing plenty of catch-and-release action on the top inshore trio. The snook and trout are quite abundant and the reds are being caught while targeting the snook.

Anchoring over structure in Tampa Bay is providing action on macks, bluefish and jack crevalle. Chumming these fish with some shiners is really creating a feeding frenzy — entertaining for my clients. The shiners aren’t lasting more than five seconds on the hook.

That’s some good action right there.

Capt. Warren Girle is finding action for his clients over deep grass flats during swift tides in the mornings. Casting free-lined live shiners as bait is yielding his anglers mangrove snapper, ladyfish, mackerel, bluefish and numerous catch-and-release spotted seatrout.

For the snappers, selecting the smaller-sized shiners for the hook is ideal, according to Girle. The 12-inch snapper prefer the smaller baits over big shiners. On shallower grass flats, Girle is putting clients on plenty of catch-and-release snook and a handful of catch-and-release redfish.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says limits of mangrove snapper are being caught by determined anglers at the pier. Live shrimp as bait is working the best and also attracts plenty of other species. Catch-and-release redfish are being caught on shrimp, too, as well as a few juvenile tarpon.

You also can add flounder to the list. Meanwhile, pier fishers using artificials — silver spoons and white jigs — are hooking up with some macks, jack crevalle and ladyfish.

Lastly, sport fishing for catch-and-release snook is going strong at the R&R. Larger baits, such as pinfish and even small ladyfish, are attracting 30-inch and even bigger snook. Numerous linesiders in the 20-inch range are being hooked.

Capt. Jason Stock is putting clients on black sea bass and mangrove snapper around structure in Tampa Bay, where small shiners and pinfish worked on the bottom are attracting both species. Fishing the flats in Tampa Bay is supplying some good action for the sport anglers on the catch-and-release species — snook and redfish.

Moving offshore, Stock is finding the amberjack bite accommodating. The same applies for yellowtail snapper. Also offshore are some mahi-mahi, which are a welcome sight for fishers on Stock’s J.M. Snooky Charters.

Capt. Johnny Mattay of Anna Maria Charters says catch-and-release action on snook and redfish is quite good inshore from Tampa Bay south through Sarasota Bay. For the snook, mangrove shorelines — where good water flow exists — are proving to be the ticket. Chumming with live shiners is an added advantage to trigger these fish to bite. As for the reds, the shallow grass flats and residential docks are harboring a bite. In fact, the docks are providing a better bite on larger fish, according to Mattay.

In deeper waters — along channel edges and over wrecks and reefs — Mattay is finding a good hit on mangrove snapper and grouper.

Lastly, he reports, Spanish mackerel are being found over the wrecks and reefs.

Get busy and get fishing.

Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to