Weaker tides will become more prevalent as we approach the weekend. Look for areas of small passes and openings to small bays to increase water flow and make for ambush areas for predators inshore. Targeting grouper and snapper on the tide changes can give you a better shot at catching bottom fish that will move away from structure more readily.
Hard-moving bottom currents around full and new moons can make it tougher for bottom fishing in a number of ways. Anchoring in deep water can be a challenge with tide changes and wind direction and velocity changes. For some anglers who prefer to use a GPS guided trolling motor, hitting a “Spot-Lock” button can hold the boat on a coordinate better than an anchor in good conditions. When waters are rough, the wind is blowing, and currents are running, most bottom dwellers like gag grouper and mangrove snapper will move up tight to structure. Structure with high relief is a preferred holding place until conditions improve when fish will move away from their holding place. Dropping a chum block down on an anchor line can sometimes put the chum up current, allowing chum to drift back under the boat where baited hooks are. With continuous light chumming, on slack tides you can pull fish away from structure and up in the water column, making them easier to keep from turning back into cover and avoiding break-offs.
Good action over the past week or so with gags and assorted snapper was seen. Now that red snapper season is over for all, more than likely, efforts for catching gag grouper and other species of fish will resume. Some big gags are coming over the rails aboard the 39-hour party boat out of Hubbard’s Marina in depths ranging from 140-to 200-feet of water. They’ve also been reporting some decent action with hogfish again ranging from 40-to 80-feet of water. The red grouper bite has been pretty good for them between 70-and 100-foot depths. Action for most of these fish has been coming on cut baits and pinfish.
Tripletail have shown up in nearshore waters along the edges of the Gulf on some of the swim buoys. Live shrimp or a DOA Shrimp have both worked well.
This week it’s been snook and redfish that are producing the majority of the Kodak moments. Anglers up and down the coast from Sarasota to Hernando Beach are reporting catching some big reds on the higher portion of the incoming tides. These fish will move to the mangrove edges and the edges of oyster bars on this phase of the tide. Catches of these fish have been steady on whitebait and live shrimp as well as MirrOlure Lil’ Johns, CAL Jigs with Shad tails and DOA Shrimp. Top action for snook has been around ambush points on the outgoing tides for anglers tossing either a DOA Shrimp or a CAL Jig with a Shad tail.
A few tarpon have been caught this week, but the numbers have dwindled on the beaches. Several reports of some fair action up inside Tampa Bay with tarpon by anglers soaking dead shad on the bottom were reported.
Some of the best trout action has been coming from areas north of Clearwater up to Aripeka. Anglers using the DOA Deadly Combo are scoring some nice trout on these rigs north of the Pasco/ Hernando county line where trout may be kept right now. Anglers to the south must continue to release snook, trout, and redfish until next year at the end of May or whenever the FWC changes the rule.
Sunrise and sunset are producing some of the best action for bass this past week. Crankbaits and live wild shiners are producing some of the best catches. If getting out early to beat the heat but not have to head out in the boat, give one of the local lakes or ponds a shot. Some good action can be had working the perimeter of these lakes. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!
Capt. Ray Markham