Weather effects on fishing-
We are on the full moon today and with that come more extreme tidal flows. Like the new moon, the full moon means we have stronger and more frequent tidal changes and typically more volume of moving water. This means the bays, intercostal, and bayous are all flushing out water and getting new water in. This turn over brings with it plentiful bait fish, crustaceans and other smaller prey items in the tide. Larger predatory fish get excited and have more opportunities to feed. Typically, we see more active fish and more actively feeding fish at these increases in tidal flows. Also, we have a nice low pressure sitting in the gulf pushing into our area creating a moving and falling barometer which will also inspire the fish to feed more actively too. Plus, rain, which brings with it more water flowing into the creeks, rivers, bayous, and other upland water sources which create more volume of water to be pushed or flushed out on the tides. Typically, we see bigger crab, shrimp, and small bait fish flushes behind heavy sustained rain events. All these variables tie together to create a really good time for fishing this weekend, however, you just must be cautious with all the storm activity we will have over the weekend. Behind the weekend, tides will start to stabilize, and the barometer will recover but we should still see a pretty steady bite through the work week as the area creeps back to more of a typical pattern.
Redfish action has picked up quite a bit in our back bay areas with plentiful numbers of fish starting to get together and school up and feed heavily to pack on weight for their big push offshore to spawn. These guys are moving along the mangroves, oyster bars, and grass flats in larger concentrations this time of year hunting the prolific numbers of white bait. However, live shrimp still works along with big chunks of cut dead bait on the bottom. Soft plastics are a go to option for many anglers working the flats and mangroves to cover more ground and show your bait to more fish increasing opportunities for success. Some area dock lines, especially those with some good crustacean laden growth or bottom structure are holding redfish too. At night especially dock lines become good areas to target.
Snook action still going well out on our beaches, but this is the time of year the number of fish start to dwindle a bit on the beaches as our days draw shorter and shorter. They are currently cruising the little troughs that run parallel to the beaches looking for whitebait, pinfish, and shrimp. At night and even during the day a bit the passes are still holding good numbers of snook around bridge lights, dock lights, and other artificial light sources that will concentrate bait. However, like the beaches this is the time of year we slowly start to see those numbers trail off. Back in the bay, snook are on the move to their stagging areas we found them this past spring. Except in this time of year, they are returning from the beaches and passes instead of the heading out in the spring. Good opportunities to find good numbers of moving and actively feeding fish this time of year around those staging areas in the bays. Intermediate flats, points of shorelines, dock lines adjacent to flats, and other areas like this are good places to find stacked numbers of snook.
Mackerel are back in the area in good numbers especially around deeper flats towards the mouth of the bay, but also around local bay area bridges, piers, passes and jetties. Great time to find these schools of mackerel driving big bait balls up to the surface and feeding actively. Often a bit of white bait chum can get these guys really worked up and feeding actively while skyrocketing out of the water. You typically either will cast out a white bait on a long shank 1ot hook with 20lb floro or use a 7/8th oz or 1oz gotcha plug retrieved very quickly to get one of these guys to eat! The key is something you can cast a long ways and then retrieve it quickly while keeping the lure deeper in the water.
Trout action is steady around the area lately too. However, they are spotty and can be tricky to find pockets of these fish. Once you find one, there’s often many other trout in that same area as well. They love working edges of the shallower flats or finding the potholes, cuts or any area really that they can ambush bait pushed across the flat by the current. Think of the areas these guys can stage and let the bait come to them. Then present a soft plastic or free lined shrimp or greenback to that area working with the tide so it appears natural.
Like the trout, flounder are a very ambush predator. We are seeing some nice flounder around the area in decent numbers in areas much like you would find the trout. The main difference is when targeting the flounder you want your bait just off or right along the bottom. These fish live on the bottom, hide on the bottom, and ambush on the bottom. Thus, you want your bait on the bottom for a good chance at flounder.
Mangrove snapper action is still steady in the bay. We are still seeing high numbers of these fish around local area docks, piers, jetties, bridges and especially rock piles. Great time to get out there and put a hurting on the mangrove snapper before their numbers and concentrations thin out as the days get shorter and waters cool down. Once that starts, we typically see a majority of these bigger mangroves move near shore while the smaller fish retreat to the estuaries for the winter months.
**REMEMBER, please help spread the word and knowledge on what to do if you hook or entangle a bird. NEVER CUT THE LINE, stay calm and reel in the bird and get all your line back and dehook them and release. Never leave any line in the water, if you accidentally hook a dock make sure to break the line off at the hook never cut your line. Seabirds in the area are more and more often showing up with line hanging off them and we are in danger of loosing access to fishing areas due to this. While anytime a bird is in danger or having issues is concerning too, but a wave of support of closing areas to fishing due to negative bird interactions is extremely concerning to an already dwindling number of areas you can fish around Tampa Bay from a shoreline, dock, bridge or pier! Check out the NEW podcast we did with salt strong on this issue – https://www.saltstrong.com/articles/shutting-down-fishing-at-busy-pier/ **
Near shore –
Lane snapper fishing near shore around 60-100ft of water is going extremely well right now on our 10hr all day trips and our 6-10hr HUB private fishing charters. We are seeing them on the live shrimp, squid, and smaller pieces of the cut threadfin. These fish are a bit leader shy and have smaller mouths so a bit lighter tackle and smaller hook is necessary to target the lane snapper. I would recommend around 30-40lb leader and a 4ot hook.
Mangrove snapper are like the lanes but even more smart and leader shy so it takes some skill and a lot of luck to get on good numbers of mangroves and successfully catch them while near shore fishing. Recommend lighter leader like 25-30lb and those smaller 4ot hooks. Typically, my favorite set up for these guys is a smaller chunk of cut threadfin with a double snell rig. However, the live shrimp work well for the mangrove snappers too.
Gag grouper are open through the end of the year. While we don’t catch many near shore this time of year, we are close to the time of year where they push in closer and get more prolific and aggressive near shore. However, typically this isn’t until around October through the end of the year while the peak is typically around thanksgiving to Christmas.
Hogfish action, like the gag grouper fishing, heats up near shore as things cool down. However, we are seeing a few start already around that 40-80ft area. Typically, as the cold fronts start they will concentrate and become a bit more aggressive on our near shore ledges, rock piles, and structures. While this time of year they are more spread out and more leader shy and much less aggressive.
Mackerel action is starting up on and along our beaches but it seems once your past about 30-40ft they disappear. Most of the bait is still in the bay and on the beach and that’s what will hold the early season mackerel hangout shallower until we can get them on and beyond the beaches. Typically, around mid to late September is when they start to push off the beaches and out of the bays more and we get a chance for their larger cousins, king mackerel.
Red grouper fishery has closed, but they are hard to avoid when fishing near shore. We are still seeing lots of super aggressive small to medium red grouper, while it’s a great sign for the future of our fishery, it does create bit of an issue. You really need to be aware and make sure you get these guys up quickly, dehooked quickly, and back in the water quickly either with a venting tool or descending device if needed. If they are floating away dead then they will never get big enough for anyone to keep so make sure you are prepared with a good quality dehooking tool, like our hook extractor here: https://shop.hubbardsmarina.com/shop/Tackle/Tools/Hook-Extractors–Dehookers/p/Hook-Extractor-Barracuda-135-x56386467.htm
Amberjack season has opened up for us for the months of September and October. We were concerned that the numbers of amberjack wouldn’t be there for us as we haven’t been seeing them often even out deep. However, towards the end of red snapper season while hunting red snapper deeper and deeper as season continued on we found the jacks. These fish were waiting for us as season opened and were right where we left them. Unfortunately, the firs trip faced currents that made it impossible to get to the super deep area we knew the big numbers would be. However, the second trip had less current and less anglers on board and we were able to get out to the deep area and really hammered the amberjack in a very surprising way. We are looking to do it again on todays 44 hour full moon trip and are hoping for another banner catch of plentiful amberjack. You want to get out there past 160-180ft and you want to hit the bigger relief to find the jacks. While using some very large live baits, vertical jigs, or the slow pitch jigs.
Gag grouper fishing has been going well for us out deep too. We are seeing better numbers of gags when fishing out beyond 140ft or more. They are deep right now with the warmer waters and longer days. However, as the cold fronts begin that will inspire the start of the migration of many gags especially female gags around 6-18lbs to the shallower offshore, near shore and even inshore waters to get nice and filled up on the plentiful bait before making their big push around February to March to their spring spawning aggregation sites. Like the jacks big live baits work well for the gags along with the big dead baits. Things like bonita chunks, mullet, ladyfish, mackerel, octopus or whole squid are great options for big gags out deep.
Scamp grouper are common while we are fishing out beyond 150-170ft of water. Due to fishing deeper right now for the jacks and gags we are seeing some fat scamp. They are great eating fish but a little trickier to get in high numbers as they frequent the deep water potholes in less concentrations. However, we are able to pick them up using the threadfin for bait, medium pinfish, slow pitch jigs and smaller whole squid.
Mangrove snapper action has been really good offshore as of late and were seeing some nice mangrove snapper in good numbers while fishing beyond around 100-120ft of water. Especially while deeper closer to 200ft the average size of the mangroves jumps exponentially. We typically get them best on the cut threadfins using the double snell rig and especially through the night. However, overcast rainy days typically help us to catch good numbers of mangrove snapper even during the day time period.
Yellowtail snapper action is going well around the area right now and were seeing some good yellowtails mixed in with some big vermillion snapper, porgies, and almacos while fishing deep for mangroves, gags, and jacks. Great time to get out deep and take advantage of this action on our 12 hour extreme or long range private fishing charters.
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/