New moon today, lots of moving water over the weekend. However, we do have a weaker front moving through the area over the weekend sometime late Saturday into Saturday night. That will increase our chances of rain through the later part of Saturday. Luckily aside from the rain; it does not seem to have much adverse weather associated with the front and we are looking at a gorgeous four-day weather window with some reprieve from the wind and seas. However, once that front moves past our area just south of us it will stall and linger through the middle of the coming week. This will bring with it a tighter pressure gradient and increase southern flows as the next front pushes down. So, after Monday winds will increase out of the south until next Friday when that next front is forecasted to impact and pass through our area making the winds shift out of the north. That one unfortunately looks like it could be a decent one bringing with it some increased winds and seas. If you want the best weather conditions, get out on the water today through Monday just be cautious of the possibility of the occasional shower or thunderstorm.
Snook fishing has steadily increased over the past week especially around the passes and even along the beaches. We are seeing an increase in the number of these fish pour out of the back bay area along dock lines, grass flats, mangrove shorelines and anywhere they can stage up to eat on their way to their summertime haunts along our passes and beaches before heading near shore to spawn. It is a wonderful time of year to watch the currents and target those solunar tidal periods to capitalize on a great snook bite around that moving water and structure that will hold bait and allow the snook to feed opportunistically without wasting much energy. This includes grass flats, islands, mangroves, and other areas that provide areas to congregate bait and where the tidal flushes can make little eddies or swashes that allow staged snook to feed easily as bait is flushed towards their staging areas. Lots of fish moving around with plentiful bait and that combination has led to remarkable success for local anglers.
Red fish action has been going well lately around the area too. We are seeing some good numbers of redfish caught around the docks, mangroves, grass flats and even local passes. Most of the redfish are around the flats, oyster bars, and mangrove islands are hitting on the soft plastics or live white bait, and shrimp will still work, but warming weather and the presence of pinfish and greenbacks have really changed their diet preferences lately. A smaller pinfish is a great option around the flats right now especially free lined on lighter tackle around cuts, potholes, and edges. From big redfish to snook to monster trout they all love a lively pinfish.
Speaking of trout, we have seen some big trout caught recently and it seems some of these big trout that have been alluding us lately showed back up in force which was a welcomed site this past week. We look forward to more opportunities to capitalize on this great trout bite through the early part of the coming week.
Mackerel are back around the mouth of Tampa Bay and along our beaches and local fishing piers. Not super thick in the bay yet but will only increase in numbers through the coming weeks. The skyway fishing piers are really seeing enormous numbers of them showing up and we should see more around that area too.
Jack crevalle are super active in the mornings around local back bay areas like canals and the mouths of local rivers, creeks, and bayous. Exciting time to get out there early and fish for redfish, trout and snook right around sunrise and then hit these areas for some rod bending fun with some good fighting jack crevalle.
Crazy winds to close out this week, but prior to the wind picking up we had a nice little weather window at the end of the past weekend and into the work week. This allowed for an opportunity to push out there and do some great near shore fishing at the start and into the middle of this past week. The start of this past week was some of the nicest weather we have had in a great while near shore.
The hogfish bite is still steady out there near shore around 40-90ft area. However, it has become more difficult overall to produce big numbers of keeper hogfish, so you could say the bite has slowed. We are still catching them but not in the two dozen or more range like we did through the end of our ‘winter’ months and start of the spring. Now that waters are warming up, they spread out and become much less concentrated on the ledges. They are also seemingly more leader shy as well. We will see this trend continue until summer when it really becomes increasingly difficult to find good concentrations of hungry hogfish. If you want to get out there and get a chance at some of them now is the time before it becomes even more tricky. We do catch them year around, but we see them in the highest numbers around October through around the beginning of April depending on the weather patterns. In cooler waters, they get more concentrated and aggressive around the smaller ledges, rock piles, and hard bottom areas. Still using live shrimp, lighter tackle around 30lbs and about a 4ot hook with around a 1oz egg sinker and 4-5 red beads between the sinker and hook is our go to set ups to target hogfish with a four thousand series spinning rod and about 20lb braid with a 15-25ft piece of 30lb floro or mono added to the end of the braid.
Kingfish are here in a big way! This past week we saw a huge influx of the kingfish to our beaches and near shore areas. Many people reported catching them as shallow as 30ft of water. We were seeing them on the trollers, flat lines and even a few caught while dropping baits to bottom. They are really moving in and hanging out around any large structures that will hold bait. However, you can catch them while trolling between spots too. It is a wonderful time of year to remember that flat line while out there bottom fishing at virtually any depth. We have a great video on how to tie up a kingfish wire leader on our fishing tips and tricks page here – https://www.hubbardsmarina.com/fishing-tips/ just scroll down to the rigging tips section and you will find the ‘how to tie a kingfish stinger rig’ video!
Mackerel are also here like the kingfish; we are seeing big numbers of mackerel coming up trolling around the near shore reefs, wrecks, and hard bottom areas. You can really do well trolling a number 1 or 2 planner and a 4–6-inch drone spoon or really any trolling spoon. We typically use around 15-18ft of 40-60lb mono between the planner and spoon with snap swivels in front and behind the planner. Trolling around 6-9kts is a great speed with these hardware options and you can even troll the crab trap buoy lines along the beaches for opportunities for mackerel and a kingfish too. Even the Egmont key channel from the skyway west is a great option to target these fish as well.
Black sea bass have been very thick near shore lately and we are still seeing good numbers of larger black sea bass caught recently. These guys only get to be around sixteen inches in our area, but they are extremely good eating. Most will be around 12-14 for solid keeper sizes but we have seen some larger ones pushing even past sixteen inches. These guys love live shrimp, but you can get them on squid, sardine chunks and a variety of other baits too. They love structure and this is the time of year we see them most often near shore.
Red grouper have been around near shore but only really seeing decent options at catching keepers closest to the deepest near shore waters. We should start to see more come shallower as the water warms, but for now targeting them closer to 80ft plus is the best way at having a chance at catching a keeper red grouper.
We are finally on the backside of our deep-water closure that runs each year for the month of February and March. This closes the opportunity to keep any shallow water grouper complex species past twenty fathoms or 120ft. Now that this closure is over you are once again able to fish any depth and keep those red grouper and scamp grouper and other grouper species. We are extremely excited for this 39-hour trip later today to push out there to 160-200ft of water and really get after these fat red grouper and scamp that have had a two-month reprieve to spawn.
Red grouper have been tougher lately with that deep water closure going on. We have had to really work at them and bounce around grinding together a nice catch of red grouper around the inside of the ‘fence’ or closure line. However, with that restriction being lifted today we should see a huge influx of big fat red grouper from waters beyond 140ft.
Mangrove snapper action has been really good to us lately and now that we do not have to worry over the depth, we should see some even more so increase mangrove snapper catches coming up! Looking forward to a great few weeks here as we push deeper and catch those 7-10lb mangroves out there around 160ft – 200ft. They love that double snell rig and around 40lb test and a double snelled 6ot hook.
Scamp grouper fishing has been tough inside 120ft of water they definitely are most often caught once we get closer to 200ft, and they get much bigger too. Looking forward to getting some big boys this weekend out there deep. They love the cut threadfins, small to medium pinfish, and also the vertical jigs close to the bottom.
Kingfish are thick offshore right now and should be ready to chew this through this moon phase where water is moving, and things are stirred up. Plus, we have seen some big blackfin tuna caught lately as well. Finally, this is the time of year where we see an increase in the opportunity to run across a sailfish and the wahoo show up in good numbers too. Keep the flat line out and the pitch rods ready while offshore this coming week!