January 22 – 24
What a beautiful weather week this has been. Look for more of the same until we hit the first-to-middle part of next week. Fish love this brief warm-up and calm weather!
The fishing has been nothing short of stellar this past week. Nearshore waters ranging from 30-to 70-feet are producing some major catches of hogfish. The fishing range on these trips is perfect for getting good numbers of hogs. Some of these trips have seen some very light loads, so it’s a good time to get onboard one and expect plenty of elbow room on the rails. Capt. Dylan Hubbard out of Hubbard’s Marina at John’s Pass in Madeira Beach has been reporting some terrific catches of hogfish and red grouper on their 10-hour trips. The 5-hour trips or half-day trips have been producing a variety of fish, including a few hogfish, mangrove snapper, grunts, porgies, and some Spanish mackerel.
Long range trips beyond 120-feet have produced some big red grouper, scamp grouper, mangrove snapper, yellowtail snapper, lane snapper, and a few blackfin tunas.
Silver trout are showing up along the beaches in depths of about 10-to 20-feet of water. Tandem rigged jigs tipped with shrimp work exceptionally well on these fish. They are a smaller fish, but there is no bag or size limit. Just keep what you want for dinner and release the rest. They do fight very hard for their size so whatever size you hook may surprise you. Typical spots for these fish to school can be off Blind Pass near St. Pete. Beach, Bradenton Beach, and Sand Key.
Numbers of speckled trout have been on the rise. Some areas are also seeing some larger fish show up. Some specks over 20-inches are being caught. As we approach March and April, most trout in this area will contain roe as they prepare to spend the summer spawning. Much of the West Central Region remains closed through the end of May, with the exception of the area north of the Pasco/ Hernando county line. Trips this week produced double digit catches of specks for release on MirrOlure Marsh Minnow Jr. soft plastic shad-style bodies and S7MRS MirrOlures. Crimping barbs or filing them down on hooks can help decrease or avoid release mortality with these fragile fish.
Sheepshead are coming into their prime time for spawning. These fish will be about as fat as they can get this time of year. Look for any kind of structure, rock piles, pilings, bridges, docks, piers, and seawalls to hold these fish. They feed on crabs, shrimps, mollusks, fiddler crabs, and a few other type crabs. There are others, such as barnacles but all will catch these striped fish. Scraping barnacles off pilings can get these fish feeding. Threading a few barnacles on a hook and dropping it just after scraping a piling can produce some great results.
Redfish have been spread out over much of the region. Pockets of fish are being caught in upper Tampa Bay, the South Shore of Tampa Bay, and Sarasota Bay with many running into the 30-plus inch range.
Flounder are on the minds of lots of anglers. Over the past few years, numbers of fish and sizes have been down. As of March 1, new bag and size limits for these fish go into effect. The new minimum size will be 14-inches. The bag limit will be 5 per person per day. These limits extend out to both state and federal waters. Warmer than normal winters may have been the reason for the change in numbers of these fish but that’s speculation.
Bass fishing has been very good with lots of very active fish hitting a big variety of lures in this cooler water. Most areas have water temperature in the low 60’s with a few smaller lakes running up to the mid-60’s. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and Chatterbaits are all working well. Grace Albergo of Tampa, with her husband, Dylan catch some nice bass in Tampa lakes on plastic worms but recently ran up to Tallahassee to fish. Grace landed a fat largemouth estimated at about 6 or 7-pounds on a purple Zoom worm. These fish are getting fat now and will be fanning the beds just about any time.
Bream fishing has been steady. Look for these fish to be bedding soon as they prepare to spawn. Crappie will be doing much the same thing over the next couple of months. Tighter schools of specks in greater numbers will be available during this time.
‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!
Capt. Ray Markham