Red tide may finally be on the way out of our Tampa Bay area. We have seen consecutive days now where there are no levels of red tide forecasted around Tampa Bay which is a first for the area since early spring of this year! Hopefully this continues to hold true, and we can finally put to rest the red tide issues for the present time. Here is the latest forecast and levels from the USF and FWC collaborative efforts -> http://ocgweb.marine.usf.edu/tbm/hab/
Sheepshead are biting better and better around the area and as cold fronts continue to barrage our area that should only improve the sheepshead action around local docks, piers, bridges and jetties. These guys love hanging around areas of barnacles, oysters, clams, and other growth that will attract crabs, shrimp and other crustaceans. They will even cruise mangrove shorelines! Lighter tackle, minimal weight, small hooks and smaller chunks of bait is the best way to target these fish. However, they do have stiffer mouths so a faster action rod and a J hook with a solid hook set is important. Plus, when using smaller pieces of bait and fiddler crabs they come off the hook easily, so you have to get the ‘feel’ for the bait and bite.
Mangrove snapper are still around inshore too so in areas you are finding sheepshead you will also have a shot to get after the mangroves when using small pieces of shrimp. They will take the same tackle and approach as the sheepshead.
Redfish action has been good this past week, still a little slower compared to August and early October, but the bite is doing well overall. There are still some schools feeding, especially around the upper Tampa Bay area. During the day if you find those schools of mullet, you will find feeding redfish. During the night, look for dock lights or bridge lights with sandier bottom areas. Fish the bottom with cut bait or slow-moving soft plastics for the redfish.
Snook action has surprisingly still been happening along our beaches and were still seeing some in the local passes too. However, most of the fish have moved back into the bay. There are good numbers of fish up in the bays and sounds on the flats. They are feeding well back on the flats during the day and around those mangrove shorelines.
Flounder action has picked up lately around those sandy patches in the flats, along the edges of the flats and around local docks and bridges. They love the live shrimp, mud minnows, or slow-moving soft plastics. However, keep in mind they are right on the bottom, so your bait must be on or very near the bottom.
Pompano have been around the mouths of local passes, but with the red tide it has been tough to find good numbers of fish. Hopefully, now that we have cleaner, clearer water around the area between the fronts, we should hopefully see some good pompano action pick up before the water gets too cold.
Triple tail action has been great lately all around the bay, along the beaches, and even inshore and offshore! Virtually any floating debris, markers or buoys will be hiding a triple tail or three. We found a floating palm frond recently on our way offshore just off the beach with half a dozen nice triple tail under it!
Hogfish action has really picked up recently! We had a great trip Tuesday with over a dozen keeper hogfish and then Thursday we caught a handful too! We are fishing a little deeper for them, around 50-60ft of water seems to be the starting area compared to 40ft due to the red tide blooms over summer. The same approaches are working best with 30lb leader and a 4ot hook and about 1-2oz weights with live shrimp for bait.
We are seeing some nice mangrove snapper near shore as well. The lane snapper bite is going extremely well but unfortunately, they are still closed. Lanes should re-open soon, and we have heard that they could re-open mid-November to early December.
Besides the hogfish, mangroves, and plentiful grey snapper or white grunts we have seen some nice scamp grouper near shore too. Especially deeper near shore, around 60-100ft of water.
Mackerel and kingfish are around as well, and we are hoping that they get a bit more prolific and aggressive. Look for birds while near shore to find those bait schools that are being attacked by the mackerel and kingfish.
Our short red snapper season extension ends today, November 5th, but we still have tons of great eating fish to target offshore. The gag grouper bite has been so good lately especially right before the fronts. They have been extra aggressive lately around those fronts; right before and a few days following the front once the water calms down. Near shore you must wait behind the front for the water to calm down and then clear up, but offshore you just need to wait for the waters to calm because out deeper the water does not get as stirred up with rougher weather like it does inside 100ft of water. Big fronts will congregate the fish around larger structures and make it easy to find good numbers of big gag grouper behind the bad weather.
Mangrove snapper action has been going well offshore too with good numbers of fish mixed in on the ledges with big vermillions, porgies, almacos and others. Plus, the yellow tail snapper action seems to continue to be steady around our area too. Now that red snapper has closed, we will have more time to target the fun to catch mangrove snapper offshore.
Pelagic action has been nuts offshore lately with wahoo, tuna, kingfish and the occasional sailfish around too. Great time to remember trolling tackle while offshore beyond 120-140ft of water. Trolling between bottom fishing areas is a great idea also. For wahoo, big tuna and kings the marauder style lures like the nomad madmacs or shimano bonita lures are a great option. However, the lipped plugs like the nomad dtx minnows and the rapala xrap magnums are a great all-around option that may find wahoo, kingfish and tuna. For wahoo, the darker colors like purples, dark blues, and even some pink accents have been hot color patterns as of late.