Thunderstorms that have moved in and out along and off the coast have created some issues for some boaters. Pay close attention to the weather channel on your VHF radio periodically during time on the water and move to a place of safety if necessary. As always, leave a float plan with someone responsible on shore.
Dropping live and cut baits in 180-to 200-feet of water west of Pinellas has been the norm for catching big gag grouper for the party boats running out of Hubbard’s Marina in John’s Pass at Madeira Beach, according to Capt. Dylan Hubbard. While keeper grouper might come from depths ranging from 70-to 120-feet, with red snapper season being open, it just makes more sense to run to the depths where both red snapper and big gags are there for the taking. Their anglers are also catching a few nice scamp grouper. While the bite for red snapper has been best beyond 150-feet of water, Hubbard says the “mother lode” of cooperative keeper red snapper has been in the 190-to 200-foot depths. The night bite has been good for mangrove snapper around this past Monday’s full moon. These fish are beginning to fatten up for the spawn around next month’s full moon. Look for some residual action for mangos through the weekend. Hubbard recommends a 12-hour private charter aboard the Flying HUB 2 or Flying HUB 1, the 12-hour Extreme or 39-hour trip for red snapper.
Cobia and tripletail in the Gulf continue to be alternatives to running long distances. Along with Spanish mackerel that have been running the beaches and the Egmont Key Ship’s Channel each of these fish are doable. With strong outgoing tides late in the afternoons during this week, cobia will take advantage of the virtual conveyor belt of food flowing out the passes on the late afternoon/ evening outgoing tides.
Big schools of glass minnows are a huge draw for Spanish mackerel. At times the balls of bait schools are so think they make a dark image in the water that moves. Occasionally, when these small baitfish are forced to the surface by marauding predators, they make a dimpling on the surface that looks like rain falling on the water’s surface. Folks dub these baifish ‘rain minnows’ because of the effect.
Tarpon season is in full swing and the beaches and passes along with some areas just inside passes in bays are holding good numbers of poons. Days with light winds are best for an early start with these fish. Morning easterlies are best when we can get them, but winds out of the west have been making it difficult for both anglers and fish to be on the beach.
Snook fishing has been very good for anglers in the mid-to southern portion of the West Central Region. It’s all catch and release in the area but some big fish are being caught and released. Live and artificial shrimp like those from DOA Lures seem to be taking the top honors for catching snook. The full moon this past Monday has pushed a flood of big shrimp out of Tampa Bay, through the passes and into the Gulf. Savvy folks who take dip nets out to catch shrimp are finding a bucketful at the end of their night’s fishing. A top spot has been near Bunce’s Pass on the north tip of Fort Desoto.
Trout fishing has been pretty lame for the most part with most anglers reporting some undersized fish that must be released. But on rare occasions an angler will catch a true gator trout. Tim Kolschowsky of Illinois fished with me late last week and caught one of these big speckled trout that taped out 28-inches for the release. Being registered in the CCA Florida STAR tournament he photographed the trophy fish and released her to catch again another day. This fish was caught on a DOA ¼ ounce holographic glitter Shrimp.
Redfish remain scarce in many parts of Tampa Bay and it takes some time and patience to find and catch a fish or two. There are a few areas of Tampa Bay that were unaffected by red tide last year and during 2017 that continue to hold fair numbers of fish. Look for those areas to continue holding those fish.
Lots of rain over the past week has had some positive effects on many smaller ponds and lakes in residential areas. While many of these ponds are retention ponds and do not have very good water quality, fish should not be taken to eat from these ponds. Stormwater runoff and contaminates from roads and lawns contribute to this issue. But on a positive note, with all the rain, lake water temperatures dropped a bit and oxygen levels rose somewhat, making bass and small panfish chew with a little more vigor. A few of the small Pinellas lakes that I fish were hitting topwater DOA PT-7 soft plastic weedless walking baits. Look for that early morning and early evening bite to continue when water temperatures drop. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!
If summer vacation is on your list of things to do, give Capt. Angie a call at (863) 228-7263 or book a trip through her website at www.southfloridabassfishing.com. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!
Capt. Ray Markham