Inshore: As expected the fishing turned on around the bay area with plenty of great catches being reported. The greenbacks/whitebait has moved onto every grass flat and with some chumming it’s easy to get all you need for a day of fishing.
If you’re chumming bait into cast net range try using any form of cat food (east expensive the better). I use Jack Mackerel (purchased at my local grocery store), mixed with menhaden oil, (purchased at my local tackle shop) and several cups of fish food (purchase at my local feed store). I dump the jack mackerel into a small plastic bucket, mush it up real good, add a cup or two of menhaden oil and several scoops of fish food then mix everything together. When you get to the flat just toss out small amounts and watch the bait come running. Tip: if you purchase a bag of fish food my certain you have something to store it in, do not leave it in the bag. I use a two five-gallon buckets with lids.
Ok, we’ve got our bait… let’s go fishing. Tampa Bay if full of fish and finding those willing to eat is not difficult.
Snook, Redfish and Trout are everywhere around the bay. But if you’re looking for snook, remember they are out of season and must be released until the first day of September. Circle hooks are more fish friendly than conventional j-hooks and usually result in outer-mouth hookups. However, it you’re not paying attention the fish will swallow the bait and hook which almost always results in death. Therefore as soon as you sense the fish has taken the bait, simply ease back on the rod get a good bend in it and when you feel the fish start reeling.
We’ve been catching snook around the mangroves and around structure. However, on a few recent trips I’ve found plenty of fish on the grass flats… fattening up on whitebait.
There are plenty of reds around and you’ll find some schooling fish from Double Branch Creek all the way into Sarasota. I’m finding most of the fish we find will push up to the oyster bars and mangrove line on an incoming tide and feed until the tide turns to go out. We’re catching them on live greenies and artificial lures. Some reel exciting action comes on topwater lures like MirrOlure, High Roller and Thunder Shad lures. As the water deepens you might try a Gulp Shrimp around the oyster bars.
Everyone loves a good trout bite and lately I’ve been finding some huge seatrout around the outside edges of some hearty grass flats, especially when the tide begins falling. The bigger fish tend to move to deeper water and live greenbacks and shrimp free-lined or under a popping cork will do the trick.
Now for some real fun… the giant Spanish mackerel have arrived and they’re ready to eat. Plenty of huge fish are patrolling the beaches along the gulf and quite often you hook up with the occasional kingfish. These speedsters will be moving into the bay offering some awesome drag screaming action on light tackle. These fish hit hard, run long and offer a terrific battle and they are good eating.
I’ve been smoking them for about a year now and they are delicious. You can even do it on a gas grille. Take a couple of lengths of aluminum foil, double it and roll some wood chips into a log inside the foil. Poke a few holes into the foil and place it under the grates on the rear burner. Take another sheet or two of the foil and place it on the grates, put the mackerel fillets skin side down and sprinkle with you favorite seasonings. I use a seafood seasoning and garlic salt. Cook with the rear burner on medium and the front two burners off. Sometimes I’ll turn the front two on about a minute or two before the fish are done. It doesn’t take long to cook about 20 to 30 minutes but watch them; you don’t want to dry them out too much. When done serve warm and eat away from the blood line. It’s as good as smoked mullet and if inclined it make some terrific smoked fish spread.
Mangrove snapper (gray snapper) have begun their typical summer push into inshore waters of Tampa Bay. Anglers are reporting good catches around any area with structure, rock piles, and area bridges such as the Sunshine Skyway and Gandy Bridge. The full moon should really heat up the action as fish prepare to spawn.
Offshore: The recreational harvest of gag grouper and red snapper from all Gulf of Mexico waters off Florida was from closed Feb. 1 through March 31. It might be interesting to see if this closure will help rebuild the population of this important species. It seems that closed seasons and bag limits seem to change monthly, so be certain to check the latest information at: myfwc.com/RulesandRegs/SaltwaterRules_index.htm
Typically the winds lie down in during the summer and making for calmer more pleasant offshore fishing. And with the water warming up in June the grouper and snapper fishery should be extremely active, around hard bottom or structure, from near shore waters out to about 100-160 feet. Either live bait or dead bait will do the trick but remember you must use circle hooks and have a Venting Tool and de-hooker. Team Marine USA still builds the worlds safest and most fish friendly venting tool. Check them out at: www.teammarineusa.us
The red snapper season opens in Federal and Florida waters June 1. The offshore snapper bite should be excellent. You can also expect good catches of mangrove snapper and structure and bait, are the key to catching these tasty fish.
There are plenty of artificial reefs and wrecks located just off the coast. You will find a list of them at: www.myfwc.com/docs/Conservation/REEFS.pdf#search=”reef”
There’s a good gag grouper, snapper, sheepshead, Spanish mackerel, bonito and the occasional yellowtail located around these reefs. Anytime you’re fishing a hard bottom reef and doing any chumming keep you eyes open for a nice cobia and late season kingfish. Permit will usually show up on the near shore wrecks and will hit silver dollar size crabs.
For those adventurous blue-water types, there are plenty of summer marlin and Wahoo out near the Gulf Stream.
If you’re interested in booking a trip, please visit my website: CaptainWoodyGore.Com or call at: 813-477-3814. Fishing Florida for over 50 years, I offer professionally guided fishing and teaching charters around Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Bradenton, Sarasota, and Tarpon Springs. If you want to catch fish, have a memorable adventure or perhaps learning some new fishing tips give me a call. I specialize in group and multi-boat charters. Tell me what you need and leave the rest to me.