Inshore Fishing Report
The warm up this past week brought our local snook to life! We saw a big surge in the snook bite around the area and just a few degrees of water warming up made a big change in their behavior and feeding patterns. At the start of this past week it was chilly but warmed up nicely and the snook really spread out and fed actively over the flats, dock lines, and around those canals and choke points around the mangrove shorelines and cuts of the back bay. Watching those solunar times are important especially for the snook. Moving water helps to get them feeding too bringing their food to them and finding those pockets where the fish can hide out and ambush passing bait. Snook are extremely opportunistic feeders trying to expend little to no energy while getting their meals. Shrimp has still been a good option with cooler waters, but even after the warm up shrimp were working well. Slower moving soft plastics are also a great option along with pinfish or grunts. However, shrimp reigned supreme around the area through the back bay not only for snook but also redfish and trout. Think about lighter tackle options with the clearer waters and smart leader shy fish. 10-15lb braid with 15-20lb floro and smaller hooks like 1-2ot has been the best options with the live shrimp or soft plastics.
Redfish action has also been very good this past week. They seem to be more active and harder fighting recently with the weather and cleaning waters. Bait is moving around and the fish are following. Lots of shrimp action going extremely well too and continues to be the bait of choice for redfish and most inshore gamefish when fishing live bait. Soft plastics are a great option too! Like the snook, light tackle has been super helpful and nearly key in coaxing these fish to cooperate and eat. The calmer weather has our inshore waters extremely clear and fish super leader shy and spooky. You have to be extremely stealthy; presenting your baits naturally and not trying to cast at the fish but in front of them where you think they will be moving to, casting past them and retrieving the baits back in front of them.
Trout continue to be super spread out and harder to target than they should be for the time of year. If you can find them they are pretty concentrated in certain areas and parts of the bay. However, areas harder impacted by that recent red tide have not produced nearly as many trout. However, slow-moving soft plastics (not to sound like a broken record) produce extremely well if you are comfortable and you find your confidence. Artificial lures work best when you understand what works for you and what you feel confident about while using. The important part is finding what you like and what you have any confidence in.
Sheepshead action has been fired up around the area too, even while water is warming they are thick around area structures. Look for them around docks, piers, bridges, jetties, rock piles, seawalls, or any structure that has those oysters, barnacles, clams, or hard growths that allow a place for crabs or shrimp to hide. These fish are extremely good eating, and fun to catch! You have to use lighter tackle, smaller hooks, and small pieces of bait and be ready to set the hook and pull the fish from structures. In deeper water area structures the jig head method works well. In shallower waters, a small split shot and a hook around 6-10 inches away is a great option, or no weight at all if you can get away with it. However, keep in mind most of the baits like cut clams, oysters, or shrimp are easily taken off the hook so being able to feel the bite and set the hook effectively is very important.
Flounder action has been going well around the area, but very spotty and very tricky to target unless you know where to look and what to use. These guys are a very underrated gamefish and killer eating too! They are tricky to fillet and tricky to target but extremely rewarding. They are always around those sandy bottom areas adjacent to structures, grass flats, and areas that congregate bait and other prey items.
Nearshore Fishing Report
Hogfish action is HOT near shore this past week! We are doing extremely well on the hogfish around that 40-80ft depth on our nearshore trips like the 5-hour half day and 10 hour all days and the private fishing charters. Using that lighter tackle and live shrimp is key to targeting those hogfish. However, you can use rock shrimp, sandfleas, and fiddler crabs too but the shrimp gives you a great shot at hogfish plus lanes, mangroves, and plentiful other fish as well. Around 20-40lb test is a good option but we use and recommend around 30lb. Also, around 3-4ot hooks is a great option but you can use smaller hooks and lighter tackle too. One person I know who does well uses 2ot hooks and 20lb leaders but you will need a net or gaff for sure using that light of leader and with a 2ot hook in my opinion you may catch more bycatch but with such a large mouth those hogfish can be missed in my opinion. Look for those smaller ledges, rock piles, and hard areas adjacent to bigger structures to find the hogfish.
Mangroves have been around near shore, but they are most common out there in deeper offshore waters especially as you approach that 100ft mark you can find them as shallow as 40-60ft but they become more prolific and more concentrated as you reach deeper nearshore waters. Using the live shrimp for hogfish gives you a shot at mangroves but the threadfin chunks on the double snell rig is a great option too. Also, smaller pinfish give you a shot for bigger mangrove snapper as well. They are most likely found around bigger structures like rock piles, bigger ledges, or areas where they have plenty of bait to hunt for.
Lane snapper are super prolific nearshore around 60-100ft of water. We are seeing them biting well on squid, shrimp, and even cut threadfins too. Once your past 60ft of water you start to see them more, but you can find them even shallower around 30-50ft of water just fine but as you get past 60ft we find them in bigger concentrations and biting much better.
Red grouper are doing well into the deepest near shore waters. Once you get closer to 100ft of water we are finding more and more red grouper. Look for them using those squid strips, live pinfish, and whole threadfins with the tail cut. When fishing deeper whole threadfins especially double threadfins are a great option but remember to drop them more slowly to prevent the helicoptering and tangles of your leader and mainline.
Offshore Fishing Report
The mangrove snapper have been very large and very active offshore in deeper waters around 120-160ft of water. We are still finding plenty in 100-120ft too, but once you get deeper we are finding much larger much more concentrated mangrove snapper. Looking for them around bigger ledges and structures just like the near shore waters have been a good option too. Plus, the cut threadfins and the double snell rigs are key offshore in deeper water as well. We are using around 40lb leaders and about 6ot hooks doing well to target the mangrove snapper offshore.
Red grouper action has been tougher as of late, but we are able to find pockets of concentrated red grouper, but weather has been challenging too. We are finally getting a better sized weather window and looking forward to capitalizing on some longer periods of nicer weather. Looking for them using around 7ot hooks with about 60lb test leaders but up to 8olb and larger hooks too but it depends on your bait sizes too.
Scamp grouper action has been tough with that deep water closure going on, but we have found a few here and there. We are looking forward to the triggerfish opening march first and that deepwater action picking up, but we are going to be going after them after march ends.
Pelagic action has been very spotty and tough as of late with the stirred up water conditions. However, the blackfin tuna are around out there and with things calming down we have a better shot for them. Plus, the wahoo are still a possibility offshore too when out there past 120ft of water.