Coming up on a new moon this weekend with a low approaching the area in the early part of the work week. These two things coupled together should bring us good water movement and a hot bite over the weekend and into the start of the coming week. It’s a wonderful time to get out on the water and take advantage of the good fishing we are seeing around the area. Plus, later in the week that little front should keep fish moving and getting more into that ‘wintertime’ pattern around our area.
Redfish action has been great around our area this past week, and this should continue around our grass flats, oyster bars, and mangrove shorelines. We are seeing some of these fish start to move to those residential dock lines too. Passes around the area are still holding some nice numbers of redfish too on the sandy bottom areas around bridge lights or dock lights at night and through the day around the structures. Live shrimp has become the bait of choice for these guys as bait gets more and more scarce. Plus, the redfish love crustaceans like shrimp and smaller crabs. Small pinfish work well for redfish too and even cut dead bait; especially as water temps fall.
Sheepshead fishing is going extremely well around our local dock lines, bridges, canals, oyster bars, jetties, and piers. Smaller hooks, tackle, and minimal weights with small chunks of shrimp or cut oysters or clams are a great option for sheepshead but fiddler crabs and barnacles work well too. Look for them in areas where waters are moving a little more slowly. Tip; start on a slack or slow tide and scrape some barnacles and oysters off the surrounding pilings to get the sheepshead chummed up.
Snook action has slowed a bit around the passes, but the back bay areas are still holding fish well, as we are seeing more action in shallower warmer water areas. In the passes and around those deeper areas you have to wait until the right time to get those fish in a feeding mentality. We are seeing the snook around dock lights and bridge lights at night where water is pushing unsuspecting bait fish past the structures hiding the big predatory fish.
Trout action is steady around the area, and you can find areas where they are feeding well, but they are a little trickier as of late. We are seeing and hearing about the best action in the early morning or early part of the day before boat traffic picks up and starts to make them more skittish and leader shy. Also, look for them more in the back water areas that are less disturbed. At night, you can find them around the dock lights of the area.
Triple tail are still incredibly thick around the area in the bays, passes and along the beaches if you can find floating debris, markers, or buoys holding these unique looking fish. They are harder to find in the large keeper size, but you can get lucky especially along the beach working those crab trap buoy lines. Using live shrimp or soft plastics are great ways to sight fish these guys.
Pompano action is going well around our beaches, sandy passes and around some select bridges in the area. They like cleaner clear water areas, and they hunt the sandy bottom for crustaceans. You can even find them around the sandy patches or bars near the grass flats of the bay too.
Flounder are hiding around those sandy patches, cuts, and potholes around our local grass flats. We are seeing them around the local structures too hiding on the sandy bottom areas waiting for bait to get pushed off structures. We see them often around our local passes this time of year as they head offshore for their spawn adjacent to the near shore wrecks and reefs. Shrimp, mud minnows and smaller pinfish are great options for these guys.
Hogfish action is now in full swing near shore, and we are seeing some monster hogfish action around 40-70ft of water near shore right now on live shrimp. Exciting time to get out there and target some of these great eating fish with lighter tackle, lighter lead and about a 3-4ot hook with around 30lb braid and 30lb floro top shot. We see most using around 1-2oz of lead and a live shrimp to get the hogfish biting well. We target the smaller ledges, rock piles and flat hard-bottom areas where these guys can cruise just off the bottom looking for crustaceans along the bottom. However, everything out there bites a shrimp, so you have to wade through a lot of bycatch to find some keeper sized hogfish while on a near shore trip.
Gag grouper action is starting to pick up more and more near shore in our area. We are seeing a lot of these fish around the 30-100ft areas near shore. They love live pinfish, pigfish, squirrelfish and even lizard fish around the ledges, and rock piles. You can catch them using dead threadfins, sardines, or cigar minnows too, but the live bait is definitely the best bet. Near shore around 60lb test is a great idea but around 80lb is the max. You can get lucky with less than 60lb but it is hard to land a nice keeper gag on less than 60lb.
Mangrove snapper action is going well near shore, and we are seeing some decent sized mangroves too. We catch them often while targeting the hogfish with that same hogfish rig and live shrimp. However, the double snell rig with a small chunk of threadfin will work well too. Around 30lb test leader and 4ot hooks is what you want while targeting these near shore mangrove snapper.
Lane snapper are still biting extremely well near shore but unfortunately, they are still closed due to the delay in rule making at the NOAA agency. However, we are hoping to get some news on these guys sometime today or early next week, but time will tell if they are able to get the job done in a timely fashion. Luckily, they will open January first regardless. Keep in mind, the vote to increase the catch limits was made in January 2021 and nearly 12 months later they still have been unable to institute the higher catch level the gulf council voted on.
Kingfish action surprised us this past week near shore. We saw a few nice kings come up on the flat lines on our private fishing charters and party boat fishing trips this past week. Free lining dead threadfins on a kingfish stinger rig under a balloon worked well from our five-hour party boat fishing trip. The HUB caught one on a private fishing charter free lining a pinfish on the same stinger rig set up too. In order to tie up one of these special kingfish rigs, we do have a great video on this on our fishing tips and tricks page in the rigging section here -> https://www.hubbardsmarina.com/fishing-tips/
Gag grouper action is going extremely well offshore right now on our long-range trips. We are seeing some big catches of gag grouper aboard our 12-hour extreme fishing trips aboard the flying HUB 2 and the 39-hour long range overnight trip aboard the Florida fisherman. The last 39 hour brought home more than ninety keeper gag grouper using live pinfish and threadfins. We had an issue getting a bunch of live baits for this last 39 hour and despite that they still had an incredible gag grouper catch. We found that initially landing on a spot the aggressive gags would bite just about anything including the dead bait. Then once on a spot for a bit and missing a few fish or rocking some up the only thing that seemed to get them going again was the bigger friskier live baits like pinfish, pigfish, or big squirrel fish. You definitely want a lower gear ratio reel less than 4:1 ratio with at least 80lb mono. You will get more bites using 60lb leader, but you will break off more fish, about 80lb is a good starting point and if the bite is tough you could drop to 60lb. However, if they are aggressive or if I am dropping a big live bait, I will use 100lb test leader. Around 8-12 ot hooks are common while targeting gags and your hook size will be determined by the size bait you choose.
Mangrove snapper action has been steady offshore with some good-sized mangroves coming up in the 7-9lb range in around 120-180ft of water. The average sized fish are still large, and we are seeing them mostly at night, but those overcast days and especially around this new moon often the daytime mangrove bite will still be steady too. If the fog extends offshore it makes for a nail-biting ride but that definitely keeps the mangroves feeding well through the daytime too offshore. This time of year, we often will get the sea fog going when air temperatures are warmer than the surface of the gulf which causes thick fog even offshore.
Cubera snapper surprised us this past week with two nice cubera snapper caught offshore fishing for mangroves. Nothing crazy sized, but we are seeing some of these guys show up which is a little strange as we typically see them at the end of the summer around August – September most commonly.
Kingfish are still around offshore, and we are seeing some steady blackfin tuna action offshore too. The wahoo can still be found as well, but you just never know when trolling what you may run across. This time of year, while offshore, always keep that pitch rod ready and the flat line out.