Aripeka to Longboat Key
Includes Hudson, New Port Richey, Anclote Key, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Clearwater, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Anna Maria Island and Bradenton
The dark moon this weekend will have tides running hard. A temperature drop into the negatives, after sunset, will follow the big high tide in the afternoons. Look for light winds with a chance of rain in the forecast.
Action offshore was varied this week. A few reports of cobia around wrecks along with barracudas and sharks have been noted. But grouper fishing took the spotlight all around. Both red and gag grouper were hauled in from depths ranging from 55-to 150-feet of water.
Capt. Steve Papen, of Seminole, reported catching a variety of fish including mangrove snapper, gag and red grouper, scamp, tuna, cobia, margate, red snapper, and amberjacks. AJ’s are closed through the remainder of this month, and red snapper are closed beyond the end of this year.
Capt. Dave Mistretta of the Jaws Too was tarpon fishing just off the beaches. An angler hooked up with a big tarpon only to have a giant hammerhead shark eat the fish. The summer run of tarpon brings a variety of big sharks into the area, and many of these sharks follow schools of tarpon and prey on them. It’s not uncommon for sharks to chase down fatigued tarpon, spent from being caught, and eat them. Even healthy fresh tarpon meet this unfortunate death. But the bottom line is that anglers should match the tackle to the fish targeted, and with tarpon averaging 125-pounds and many times hitting 200-pounds or more, heavier tackle will allow the anglers to put more pressure on the fish to land it in a reasonable amount of time. A fight lasting longer than a half-hour wears the fish down and reduces its ability to flee from an attacking shark.
Tarpon fishing continues to be good along the coast. Capt. Rick Grassett out of CB Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key reported his fly anglers getting numerous shots at tarpon and jumping or landing several over the course of the week. Capt. Bryon Chamberlin of Tampa has been hitting numerous tarpon over the past several weeks. Chamberlin consistently finds good numbers of fish off Anna Maria and almost exclusively catches them on flies. Fly fishing for tarpon is an extreme art and skillful anglers may have the best shot at fooling these big fish since flies can imitate live bait as well as any lure, and a skillful caster who can lay a fly in front of a silver king stands a good chance of a hooking up. Winds with a south westerly flow, as predicted for the weekend in the Tampa Bay area, will be light. But the direction of the winds coming off the Gulf will create some wave action that sometimes makes the fishing more difficult. The fact that winds will be light will be the saving grace here.
A good chance for showers on Saturday should make anglers mindful of thunderstorms that can pop up at most any time. Three people walking the beaches on Ft. Myers during a thunderstorm this week were struck by lightning resulting in one dead and the others seriously injured. You don’t want to be the tallest point anywhere, and particularly on the water during a thunderstorm.
The new moon Friday will produce some exceptionally high afternoon tides followed by a rapid dropping level that should create some heavy feeding zones for ambush feeding fish. You can expect snook to feed around these periods. Areas nearest passes and beaches where snook will be spawning will have some of the largest fish, but backwater snook will be mostly smaller male fish. This has been evident in many of the backcountry areas we fished this week. In fact, trout were smaller as well. Look for the morning incoming tides to make up a strong bite for larger trout. Some big gator trout are being caught on the flats near Bunces Pass, at Pinellas Point, in St. Joseph’s Sound around Dunedin, and south of Sister’s Key in Sarasota Bay. Topwater lures fished early should be productive. The DOA Deadly Combo fished around potholes near Tidy Island and Long Bar in Sarasota Bay will produce some action. Drifting either the 3-inch or 4-inch DOA Shrimp with the tide in the passes and along the beaches should produce some big snook. Catch-and-release is required for these closed-season fish.
Watch for cobia on any kind of structure like crab trap buoys and range or channel markers inside the bays. Any kind of artificial reef or hard bottom can be holding mangrove snapper right now. Good numbers of fish are being caught on MirrOlure Lil’ Johns and DOA Shrimp. Live-baiters are catching them on small-scaled sardines and live shrimp.
Scalloping north of the Pasco/ Hernando county line has been excellent this year, with limits being reported by nearly all who take the time to collect these tasty mollusks. Fishing the incoming tide for trout and redfish off Homosassa and Chassahowitzka Rivers is good for anglers using CAL Jigs with Shad tails, 5.5 CAL Jerk baits and the MirrOlure Lil’ John. When the tide turns to go out and temperatures soar, it’s time to hit the water for some scallops. Remember, if you are required to have a fishing license to fish, you will also need that license for scalloping. Don’t forget your dive flag!
Heavy rains wash insects off the banks and overhanging trees around lakes and on rivers. Small worms, crickets, and spiders spilling into the water make easy forage for bluegill and other panfish. Fly rodders have an excellent shot at some fast action during and after rainstorms with flies that imitate these insects. 3-to 5 wt. fly rods are good all-around sizes for bream and bass. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!