Weather effects on fishing-
Full moon weekend ahead with lots of moving water and gorgeous weather conditions. Should be a great time to get out and take advantage of all the current and actively feeding fish. Keep in mind species that feed actively at night may be a little tougher right around the full moon as they have more options to feed for more durations with all the moon light through the night. For example, mangrove snapper near shore and offshore; if we have clear nights around the full moon that moonlight allows them to feed well through the night and then they often won’t feed as strongly through the day. Also, more currents mean more bait moving around so the fish will sometimes gorge themselves and it can be a little tougher on or around the full moon. A day or two before or a few days after is best, and that full moon is Sunday. Next weekend, we will be on a last quarter moon phase so as we move through the work week tides will slow and currents will get less severe.
This upcoming week should be a big week for fish moving around and starting to settle into more of an early summer pattern. Especially with bait around and good currents moving lots of bait, fish, and flushing the bays. That full moon Sunday coupled with little wind and a strong warming trend as a weaker high settles into the area will really get them excited to move.
Snook are starting to make their way to the passes. We are starting to see a more consistent number of fish hanging around the passes daily. The beaches are really starting to get stacked up with snook too. Both of these trends we are seeing are typical of our summertime snook action. They are still loving the live shrimp, especially free lined with lighter tackle on the beaches with around 20-25lb floro leaders and about a 2ot circle hook. However, crabs will become more of their diet as we see big crab flushes begin especially on the upcoming moons. In the bay, we are seeing plentiful schoolie sized fish and slot fish moving around the flats, sandy shorlines, and oyster bars. Mangrove shorelines are nearly a year-round haunt for these fish as they move in especially at mid to high tides to hunt the mangrove roots at the edges of the shorelines.
Redfish action has been more apparent in the back bay, but we are still seeing some around local docks and bridges too. Right now they are sticking up on the mangroves at higher tides and then following the schools of mullet at lower tides. You can find pockets, cuts and holes adjacent to the mangroves, flats, or oyster bars where these guys will often stack up. Soft plastics are still king for artificials, but you can soak chunks of cut threadfin or pinfish around those mangrove shorelines at higher tides or around the edges of the schools of mullet if you find them for big redfish. Live pinfish are a great option for the redfish too, but like the snook they love the shrimp year around. As the water warms they look more for the white bait and pinfish typically.
Trout are steady, nothing crazy around the area, but you can find pockets of concentrated trout. Look for them on deeper flats around three to five foot of water, or edges of the shallower flats. We are seeing them around dock and bridge lights at night around the passes too. Plus, some really nice fish have been caught by beach snook fisherman cruising the swash channels of the beaches at sunrise and through early morning. Local jetties of passes have produced some nice trout as they move on and off the beaches from the back bays.
Pompano action is going well around the passes, beaches, and bridges approaching these areas from the back bay. We are still seeing them occasionally around the sandy edges of local flats and sometimes even some of the local channels and cuts between bays and choke points of the bay. Live shrimp on the bottom works well, but their favorite are sandfleas. You can also use the fiddler crabs to target pompano. However, most will use a pompano jig bounced just along the bottom around four-to-six-inch bounces are all you need to entice a pompano.
Shark action is really hot and heavy around local passes right now. Especially with all the bait and mackerel action we are seeing big influxes of sharks throughout the region. As waters continue to warm, we will see more and more sharks pour into our area. The big females come into the bays this time of year to pup and then cruise out while the big males will wait around the mouths of the bays and passes to eat any flushing sharks that can make it past their mothers. Often times, it’s a shark eat shark kind of world as the mothers will not eat in their journey to pup and when they do they immediately start to feed aggressively even if it means some of the pups she live births. Mainly we see a huge push of spinners, blacktips, and some bulls into our bays this time of year as they migrate down the east coast around the tip of Florida and move up the west coast to choose their favorite nurseries for their young. Tampa Bay, Sarasota Bay, Charlotte Harbor all see the same influx as our area this time of year.
Sheepshead are still around the local structures like docks, piers, bridges, and jetties but a ton of mangrove snapper are flooding into those areas too. Great time of year to hit the local rock piles of the bay or structures along our coastlines to target both of these fun to catch fish on lighter tackle.
Near shore –
Mackerel are super thick around our beaches lately. This more eastern flow we have had seems to have the bait and the fish pushed up on the beach right now from around 15-40ft is a hot spot for sure. We are seeing most of the bait on or near the bottom up to around halfway off the bottom. Most of the time you won’t see big balls of bait up on the surface too frequently, but you will mark it on your machine and then the trollers will hook up to mackerel. We are enjoying the chaos they add to our near shore fishing trips trolling them up on number one and two planners with four-to-eight-inch spoons. Lately the silver, blue and especially pink colored spoons are working best, and our favorite brand of spoon is the Huntington drone spoon by Mirrorlure.
Lane snapper and mangrove snapper are super thick and cooperative around 70-100ft of water in the deepest part of the near shore waters. The mangrove bite continues to be hot well into the offshore waters, but the lanes typically end around 100-120ft in the shallowest offshore waters but are mainly concentrated right along that border of 100ft of water. Lanes will take cubes of squid, cut threadfin but they love the live or fresh dead shrimp. Especially near shore it seems they are best to target with the live shrimp. Same with the mangroves, and I like to utilize the shrimp especially when fishing for mangroves in less than 100ft of water it’s a great way to really get on them and its fun using live shrimp with lighter tackle in the same manner we typically would be hog fishing much shallower.
Red grouper action is still a little soft, but we are doing really well on them on some of those deeper water near shore trips closer to 100ft. The ten hour all day yesterday had nine keeper red grouper along with a mess of mangroves, lanes, vermillion and as always plentiful grey snapper and porgies. It’s a great time to get out grocery shopping in that deeper near shore territory. I like to use the squid strip stacked on a whole threadfin with the tail cut kind of like a red grouper buffet and still gives you a chance at smaller fish too.
The fat red grouper are biting well for us around 100-160ft of water offshore. We are mostly fishing them closer to around 140-160ft of water but lately that rougher and windier weather has forced us to stay as shallow as 100-130ft and we still did really well catching a few nice ones here and there sticking and moving to put together a nice catch of red grouper by the end of a longer trip with many moves between spots. Few here, few there and it will add up by the end of the trip. Often using whole threadfin, live pinfish, or the squid strips to target them. However, the threadfin through the eyes held on by a strip of squid that works so well inshore also works well offshore for the red grouper. However, we are still wading through plenty of short and just under short red grouper to get those keeper numbers we want so make sure to have a venting tool or even better a descending device ready to get them ‘returned right’.
Big mangrove snapper have been biting well for us very consistently offshore lately and were looking forward to this weekend’s forty four hour trip to give us some extra night fishing time around that full moon to really put a hurting on some mangrove snapper. Last weekend’s thirty-nine-hour trip did very well with a consistent mangrove bite. Even through the daytime period they did decent on the mangroves with a steady pick of fish. Around this full moon if we get a really clear night and a cloudy more overcast day time period, we should see an incredible perfect storm of endless mangrove snapper. They feed well at night, really best at night, but the full moon accelerates that when it’s not overcast. However, during the day when we get those really cloudy overcast days or fog offshore that will often make the mangrove bite go nuts even through the day.
We are enjoying some nice big amberjack action too. These guys are only open for the month of May and they have to be pretty large fish to keep at thirty four inches to the fork. However, we are seeing a decent number of these fish and surprisingly so with such difficulty surrounding that normally the past few years. Looking forward to finally a good period of nice weather to allow us the flexibility to run far and run deep on this weekend’s forty-four hour to hopefully get a big pile of jacks!
Triggerfish season is still in full swing, and we are getting some good ones right now out deep. These guys open march first each year and then remain open until end of May when they close in June and July to protect their spawn. They will re-open in august for a fall shorter season until their quota is filled or projected to be filled. We should hear more about their fall opening by around mid-summer.
REMEMBER, when fishing deeper near shore of especially offshore the Descend Act is in effect so when in federal waters you must have a descending device or venting tool ‘rigged and ready’ so be prepared with that venting tool if you know exactly where to vent the fish, but if you don’t here’s some helpful tips – https://bit.ly/3L5HTnv Plus, keep in mind using a descending device is super easy and doesn’t take much practice or as much precision as venting does, and right now you can get over $100 in FREE DESCENDING DEVICE GEAR by visiting this link and taking a short course on barotrauma mitigation techniques that will help more fish survive! The course is only about 10-15 minutes, and it will really help you preserve, protect and proliferate our offshore fishery so spread the word -> https://returnemright.org/