With fronts blasting in at mid-week, it’s been tough for things to settle enough for a good bite if you weren’t where you needed to be exactly at the right time. It was cool and windy at mid-week, warmed up, and by Sunday, perhaps the coldest weather of the year is expected in the West Central area.
A public hearing for Reef Fish Amendment 50: State management of Recreational Red Snapper is scheduled in January. Add this to your calendar.
Tuesday, January 8, 2019
Hilton St. Pete. Carrillon Park
950 Lake Carillon Drive
St. Petersburg, Fl. 33716
Wind—it can be your friend or foe, depending on where you fish. Offshore, it’s rarely a good thing when there’s too much of it, and foul weather this week kept most boats at the dock a good portion of the time. But with gag grouper moving in closer to shore, long trips may not be necessary for catching some big gags that close at the end of the month. In fact, Capt. Dylan Hubbard out of Hubbard’s Marina at John’s Pass in Madeira Beach reported excellent action on both their 10-hour trips and their all day trips, and recently, another 10-hour all day trip has been added for this Friday.
Get your time in on the water when you can, since cold fronts will dictate those days when you can’t go. According to reports, this coming Sunday may usher in the coldest weather yet this year. Big water temperature drops will change the bite, making some fish get a case of lockjaw. Just spend more time on a spot if fish are lethargic or wait until a couple of days pass and things warm up. But the important thing is to be the first to those big ledges and rock piles at this point. The Pipeline is a popular grouper hangout. There are many rock piles leading out of Port Manatee into the Gulf and most will hold grouper and snapper along with a multitude of other species.
While snook are under an emergency closure in much of the West Central area north to Hernando County, December 1st marked the closure through the remainder of the West Coast.
Red tide hit some areas hard again this week. Robinson Preserve down in Bradenton was one of those locations in north Sarasota Bay that suffered. But it still seems that areas north of the Manatee River are not seeing near the effects of the algal bloom that others have. Continue up the south shore of Tampa Bay and the fishing gets progressively better. The northwest side of the bay from the location of the old pier to Safety Harbor and over to Rocky Creek has been outstanding, with good catches of trout, snook, and redfish. Capt. Bucky Goldman out of Tampa reported good action with redfish and snook, plus some trout and a few flounder this week.
Look for areas that are sheltered from the wind. These areas will likely offer cleaner water that snook, reds, trout, and more will look to when it’s blowing. Residential canals in and around Clearwater should see some good action with trout and redfish or even some snook. Increasing numbers of sheepshead are showing up on the flats and in the passes.
The beaches have had some action with silver trout and whiting on calmer days. Shrimp-tipped jigs have been the most productive for these fish. An occasional pompano has been caught in several locations. John’s Pass and areas along the south Skyway have given up a few of these fish for anglers fishing Doc’s Goofy Jigs.
Snook have been slowly moving up the Manatee River, according to Capt. Scott Moore of www.moorefishing.com. Moore’s extensive knowledge comes from decades of experience fishing the waters from Tampa Bay to Charlotte Harbor. With the cooler weather ahead and a whiff of red tide patches in upper Sarasota Bay, he expects to see a bigger influx of snook migrating into the rivers through the weekend and beyond. The red tide algae bloom does not survive in fresh water. So, survival of these fish is expected to be high if no freezes come this way.
Veteran fly fishing guide, Capt. Rick Grassett, who fishes out of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key says night snook fishing has been very good for anglers fishing Little Sarasota Bay and Venice’s Snook Alley.
Mike May, of Discount Tackle Outlet in Bradenton, fishing with Capt. Andy, “Doc” Lee out of Jigg’s Landing Fish Camp on the Braden River in Bradenton reported catching crappie and some bluegill. The speck fishing should be getting better as we get some more cool weather and these fish prepare to spawn. Speckled perch school up in cold weather so get ready for some of the best fishing of the year for crappie over the next few months. Bass fishing on the Braden River has always been good. Boat rentals are available at Jigg’s and they have canoes, kayaks, peddle and paddle boats. Small cabins are there for rent as well as pavilions. They have a store/ café, and live bait. BBQ grills are allowed but no open fires. You can reserve a cabin by calling (941) 727-4181 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Hours are Thursday through Tuesday, 6 A.M. to 9 P.M. ‘Til then… I’ll catch ya later!
Capt. Ray Markham