Leading up to this Thursday’s full moon, anglers had some excellent action with both inshore and offshore species across the board. Excellent tides for this weekend should produce more of the same if thunderstorms can hold long enough for anglers to get out. Keep your eyes peeled on the radar or monitor the weather channel on your VHF if you’re on the water.
All this heavy rain has been mixing things up both on the offshore and inshore areas. While the nearshore waters have been somewhat churned up from west winds consistently blowing and creating some wave action along the coastal Gulf, heavy rains and thunderstorms are keeping many anglers at the dock either waiting these storms out or canceling trips altogether. But for the guys just shooting off the coast within 10-to 15-miles, they had a pleasant surprise. Capt. Dylan Hubbard of Hubbard’s Marina reported some good action near shore with hogfish chewing much better than in previous weeks. Several methods are working for them. He says the top rig is the knocker rig using a tail-hooked live shrimp. The second is a Nekid Ball Jig in either ½ or 1 oz. sizes depending on how hard the current is running, with a tail-hooked live shrimp. The third is a simple jig head with a live tail-hooked shrimp. Hubbard also says lane, vermilion, and mangrove snapper have all been caught along with porgies and an occasional red grouper or yellowtail snapper. All of these fish have been targeted in 35-to 70-feet of water out of John’s Pass.
Jacks are wild! In waters from 200-to 300-feet around big ledges, springs, and wrecks, anglers aboard Hubbard’s boats are producing catches of some nice amberjacks aboard the party boats and private charters. However, it seems that an ‘ok bite’ can still be found from 150-to 300-feet as well, as long as you’re the first to the springs, wrecks, or ledges. Hubbard says that even that far out, they have seen quite a few boats targeting these big fish that must be a minimum of 34-inches to the fork to keep. A lot more go-fast boats are being sold these days and those in the 40-foot plus range are easily making runs of 75-to 100-mile runs each way to get to the fish in short order. Therefore, he recommends overnight trips on the party boats that are also targeting a variety of snappers.
Water temps well offshore continue to range into the upper 80’s. In many instances, it’s slowing the grouper bite, according to reports. But in addition to gag grouper, a few scamp grouper are also being caught for good measure in depths of water from 180-to 200-feet.
On the hot days, water temperatures in the shallows have been running up to nearly 92-degrees, but with this week’s overcast skies and lots of rain, I found a drop to 86.5 degrees in some of the areas I’ve been fishing. Until recently, it’s been tough to catch trout in the southwestern portion of Tampa Bay, with the likely culprit being the residual effects seen from last year’s red tide, but this week, things began looking up. In one area I found juvenile gag grouper, Spanish mackerel, trout, bluefish, ladyfish, jacks, snook, mangrove snapper, flounder, and rolling tarpon, all within shouting distance of each other. What was the change? Well, a big variety of baitfish schools and crustaceans were around this one area that held scaled sardines, ballyhoo, pinfish, Spanish sardines, glass minnows, crabs, and shrimp. Legal trout to 19-inches were caught and released on CAL Jigs with a Holographic glitter Shad tail. These fish ranged in depth from 5 to 8-feet of water along edges of sand and grass. One tarpon was jumped on the DOA Shrimp while scouting out the area. Fishing the afternoon top of the tide that was falling out and running hard, I found a few redfish that hit the new Mole’ color 3-inch CAL Shad and the DOA Softshell crab.
The full moon on Thursday will produce some strong tides that are conducive to good fishing for snook in the passes and along the beaches as we head into the weekend. Tarpon will also be a good target for catch and release fishing. Mangrove snapper have been piling up along the Sunshine Skyway fishing piers and the edges of the Egmont Key Ship’s Channel. Live shrimp, small pinfish, and whitebait have been top producers for them.
The upper portions of Tampa Bay and on the East side of the bay from the South Shore in and around the creeks and rivers all the way to the Bulkhead at the mouth of the Manatee River are holding both juvenile and full-grown tarpon. It’s a blast casting to the small poons with an 8 or 9wt. fly rod. Most of these juvies are in the 10-to 15-pound class, with an occasional larger fish to about 40-pounds. The ICW from Indian Rocks Beach to the north all the way to Tarpon Springs and the Anclote River are also holding these fish. We’re finding pretty good numbers of some nice redfish on the open flats and also around creek mouths on the turn of the tide to go out.
Freshwater seems to be everywhere these days. With all the rain that’s fallen, creeks and rivers are at flood stage and lakes are overflowing. Storm drains are working overtime and predators like bass and snook are at the dam overflows in some areas. The Braden River in the Bradenton area has seen some action with snook recently on one side of the dam where water is spilling over into the Manatee River. Crankbaits like the Rat ‘L Trap and suspending lures like the MirrOdine from MirrOlure are working exceptionally well. Bream and tilapia are forage that is being washed out where predators are hammering them. Look for imitations like these lures to produce some nice fish. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!
Capt. Ray Markham