Aripeka to Longboat Key
Includes Hudson, New Port Richey, Anclote Key, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Clearwater, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Anna Maria Island and Bradenton
Florida-if you don’t like the weather, wait awhile and it’ll change to the weather you like. This time last weekend we were coming off a string of warm days that pushed the afternoon temps up on the flats to 78-degrees in some spots. A couple of days later, the mercury plummeted into the 30’s to our far north with lows in the southern West Central Region in the 40’s. That dropped inshore temps into the 60’s in the south and 50’s in the north, but for this weekend, we’re looking at sunny skies again with air temperatures back up into the 80’s. This is what I call the Yo-Yo effect. These extreme ups and downs affect inshore fishing more than the offshore bite, but both are affected to a degree, so-to-speak. As fish readjust to the changes, so should you if you expect to catch a few fish. The big full moon on the 12th will get the tides and currents changing water in the bays in a big way. Look for some negative lows and very high tides, and don’t get caught in the backcountry on falling tides unless the draft on your boat is super skinny.
According to the majority of the offshore guys I spoke to the past few days, fishing in less than 100-feet of water took a hit this past week with the last cold front. The front piped up winds, brought some rain, stirred up water, raised seas, and lowered the water temperature. Anglers overall this week reported a slow bite as seas began to subside and waters cleared. By the weekend the Gulf will be in much better shape for fishing with the sunny warmer weather with lighter easterly winds.
Anglers continue to report catching fair numbers of tripletail along the beaches while working the swim buoys, crab trap floats, channel markers, and any kind of floating debris. Live shrimp have been working well. Artificial lure enthusiasts have been catching them on DOA Shrimp and Berkley Gulp Shrimp.
Grouper digging efforts along with catches slowed this past week with the lousy weather. Gag grouper that are closed to possession, slowed and continue to be the most cooperative beyond 100-foot depths, however, reports this week had some anglers catching fair numbers in 50-feet. Red grouper efforts centered in the 80-foot range continue to be fairly good.
Hogfish continue to be in the limelight as more and more anglers target this fish with greater success. Targeting hogfish has been most productive beginning in 30-feet of water and out beyond 125-feet. Good numbers of fish are being taken between 45 and 60-feet. Live and dead shrimp are producing good numbers of these fish, and some anglers say sand fleas are their preferred baits, both live and blanched and frozen
Prior to the last cold front, kingfish and Spanish mackerel were both being caught in the Gulf on nearshore wrecks and artificial reefs, but when the front came in and stirred up the water along with dropping temperature, these fish disappeared. Spanish will likely come back as the bait moves back in on the beaches with easterly warmer winds.
A big surprise by some has been that amberjacks have been caught in much shallower water than normal. Reports of some big AJ’s being caught in the 50-to 65-foot range brought a big surprise for all fishing there.
Efforts directed toward big trout have been successful by many anglers working waters from Clearwater to Anclote Key. The areas surrounding the spoil islands are producing good numbers of specks ranging in the upper slot size and some well over the 20-inch max. Slow-sinking lures like the TTR and TT series from MirrOlure in CH, CFPR, and 11 colors are producing impressive catches of yellow mouth trout. Several of the new single hook versions of the Rapala X-Rap slow-sinkers are also garnering catches of big trout. North of Tarpon Springs, anglers fishing Paul Brown Devils and Soft Dine suspending twitch baits along with MirrOdines are scoring big trout. Trout up in that northern region around Hernando beach are holding on rock piles in 4-to 6-feet of water. Most all areas continue to report good catches of trout on the DOA Deadly Combo. Despite red tide to the south in Sarasota Bay, Capt. Rick Grassett and his anglers are finding some nice trout on the Combo and shrimp from DOA.
Redfish have been tough in the southern part of our region from south Pinellas to Venice. Patchy red tide continues to make for hit-and-miss action for some anglers with the bloom moving fish to unaffected areas. Some areas with light concentrations of red tide will hold fish with little to no appetite. Moving to find fish that will eat is your only option here. North Pinellas anglers are reporting some excellent catches of redfish on the Heddon Zara Super Spook Jr. Tampa kayak angler Pam Wirth reported catching reds in 1-to 4-feet of water on the bone color while working waters just south of Pasco. Targeting areas where darker bottoms heat the water will produce the best action. Also, those northern areas that have fishing pressure will make for better fishing for all if anglers respect each other by maintaining some distance from each other while fishing. Weekend warriors and inconsiderate guides are both to blame. There is plenty of productive water out there, so give each other some distance while fishing.
The flats are also holding some larger bluefish these days. These fish can be vicious at times, slashing baits, lures and fish you already have hooked on your line. Care should be taken when unhooking these toothy fish to avoid their teeth. We’ll usually catch ladyfish and jack crevalle along with the blues in the same areas. Jigs worked quickly will produce all of these fish. For those who target ladyfish to catch as bait, it’s easy catching right now. Cut ladyfish make good baits for most species of fish both inshore and off.
A few reports of flounder moving in have been noted around some areas. Targeting them where there is good moving water and sandy bottoms with grass, shell, or gravel patches might be your best bet for catching some flatties. Quarter ounce jigs with soft plastic tails like the CAL Shad work well. Live shrimp on knocker rigs will also produce some action when fished on the bottom.
Crappie fishing has taken an upswing in action by anglers reporting from Lake Manatee and Lake Tarpon. Both areas have reports of some schooling activity for specks and increased catches of fish. Missouri minnows and small crappie jigs and Road Runners have been top producers of specks up to a pound. It’s a good time to go wet a line for specks! ‘Til then… catch ya later!