Snook: If you’re determined to target snook this month be prepared to fish several locations. They’ll be around, but usually not bunched up like early spring. The water temperatures start falling as we into our colder months and when this happens, snook normally migrate toward warmer waters. Unless they get caught in an early winter chill or prolonged cold period like 2009, they should be ok. Many will move into rivers, channels, deep creeks and deeper estuaries. Like other fish with low tolerances for cold water they move to areas with deep muddy bottoms. Muddy bottoms hold heat; and it’s for this reason that it attracts baitfish and fish that eat them.
Redfish: December usually means good redfish days. We’ll be targeting them around oyster beds, mangroves and shallow water pools on those low tide days. Wading is a great way to fish winter redfish. Like other species, redfish will drop into the tidal pools left when the winter tides expose everything else. The most certain thing to remember about winter tides is; at least you know where you’re not fishing. Redfish will be eating all types of live and cut bait as we approach the winter months. They’re also fairly easy to catch using artificial lures. If you’ve never used artificial lures, do yourself a favor and give it a try. If you’re out the excitement of catching and releasing; artificial lures offer you a chance to pit wits with one of the toughest competitors in the bay.
Spotted Sea Trout: Winter usually signals the beginning of trout season. Hundreds of anglers take to the water to catch this beautiful fish. Typically, a schooling fish where you catch one you’ll usually catch several. One point to remember is when you’re catching 12 to 15 inch fishing that’s normally what’s in that particular location. Larger trout are not a fast on the trigger as the smaller ones, so they elect not to compete, but rather hangout alone, watching a pothole for a quick meal. If you’re using live shrimp just hop and pop it over a broken bottom grass flat and shortly you’ll have a limit for dinner. Trout are loads of fun on artificial lures and I’ve caught some really nice fish tossing jerk baits to sandy potholes. With artificials you have the opportunity to cover more area thus exposing your lure to more fish.
Spanish Mackerel, Kingfish, Bluefish, & Mangrove Snapper: Travel across the bay and you’ll pass no less than 10 to 15 schools of feeding fish. Usually the first thing you’ll see is birds eating the leftovers of the feeding frenzy. These schools of feeding fish usually consist of ladyfish, mackerel, bluefish and jacks. Many anglers turn their noses up at these species thinking they’re junk fish. Granted ladyfish and jacks are not decent table fare, grilled or smoked mackerel and fried bluefish are excellent. For some great rod bending action these species make an excellent quarry, especially for beginning anglers and anglerette’s. When introducing children to fishing it’s important to take them catching… they’re not the least interested in fishing. If you don’t get them on a bite quickly they lose interest and probably won’t want to go the next time. Kingfish are showing up on the beach around most hardbottoms holding bait. Snapper are on the markers and fish attractors.
Snook: Excitingly the snook bites been very well. I’m certain the cold weather kill, last winter, has taken its toll on this prize target. But regardless we’re catching some nice fish. We’re catching them on live and artificial lures and moving water seems to trigger the bite. I’m finding them in places we did not fish last year; so do go to the same old spots… explore new areas.
Redfish: The reds are on the move and showing up around the bay. We’ve had good catches on live pilchards with or without a cork. Occasionally they get a little stubborn, so just change over to cut bait, on the bottom, and they’ll find it. Grass flats with sandy potholes and large schools of big mullet are great starting points. As the tide levels reach the mangroves they push back into the roots, so cast it close and hang on.
Spotted Sea Trout: Everyone loves a good trout bite and it’s that time of year when the big ones start migrating inshore. Shrimp is the favorite bait of choice but remember artificials on a light jig head always catches trout. Hop and pop it over a broken bottom grass flat and shortly you’ll have a limit for dinner.
Spanish Mackerel, Kingfish, Bluefish, & Snapper: Tampa Bay is full fo glass minnows and it’s a feeding frenzy everywhere you look. Feeding on small baits you must match the hatch when tossing artificials to feeding fish. Look for breaking and boiling water along with diving birds and it’s fish on. Kingfish are on the beach and the snapper bites getting better.
Snook: Expect good early morning flats action and later in day you will find plenty of fish lounging in the shadow lines around docks and mangroves. Greenbacks, threadfins, shrimp and pinfish are baits of choice. Or you might try tossing some artificials around… they do catch fish.
Redfish: They should start congregating around the flats as the action picks up this month. Good grass flats with sandy potholes and large schools of mullet are great starting points. The Tampa Bay area holds miles of mangrove lined shores and high tide redfish love getting back under the root system. There is always a multitude of food available including crabs, shrimp, and small baitfish. The same baits that catch snook catch redfish or for some early morning excitement try a walking-the-dog technique with a MirrOlure Top Dog Jr.
Spotted Sea Trout: Fishing always improves as the water temperatures cool. Strong moving water and deep water grass flats can usually produce a decent bite. Trout love small pinfish, shrimp, and greenbacks free lined or under a popping.
Tarpon: Some Tarpon are still around and bridge light lines especially at night. We should see some smaller thirty pounders showing up in channels and rivers. They usually always take threadfins, greenbacks and crabs.
Spanish Mackerel & Bluefish: Tampa Bay is still producing excellent mackerel bites that should continue this month, especially south of the Gandy Bridge. Look for diving birds, put out a chum bag, and hold on.
To escape the sweltering heat, recreational boaters and jet skis, anglers often prowl the night looking for a few good fish. Night fishing is attractive to many anglers can loads of fun. If you think this it’s something you’re interested in, then hook up the boat and hit the water for some nighttime fishing and memorable outings.
Night fishing often presents an opportunity to catch the fish of a lifetime, while enjoying some peaceful, comfortable time on the water. Like most wildlife, fish become increasingly nocturnal, especially during the summer. This often means the trophies that lay dormant on deep structure, during the day, can be found prowling the shallows after the sun goes down.
Growing up in the Seminole Heights area of Tampa, Florida; I lived only a few blocks from the Sligh Avenue Bridge and the Hillsborough River. I would fish from the shore, the bridge and from my home made plywood boat with my dad’s second-hand 1½ horsepower Elgin outboard. As a youngster I spent many exciting hours fishing and exploring the river.
One favorite fishing activity was night fishing from the bridge. We used a technique most of us old Tampa boys called “Swishing.” It involved an extra-long heavy bamboo cane pole, rigged with 24 to 36 inches of Dacron line, and an old Dalton Silver Flash topwater lure.
It’s a simple technique rarely used today; in fact I can’t remember the last time I crossed a bridge and saw someone swishing with a cane pole. Anyhow, here’s how it’s done. We would bend over the bridge railing, point the pole down toward the water; then in a figure eight pattern, we’d work the lure slowing around the bridge pilings and fenders. The strike anticipation was unnerving and it usually didn’t take long before a night prowling snook would strike, almost jerking the pole from your hands. Depending on the size, we’d often just lift the fish onto the bridge, however for the larger ones we’d walk them over to the bank.
While this seems to be a technique from the past; today, there is plenty of excellent nighttime fishing going on around the area. Fishing structure and more importantly structure with lights always produces nice fish. Why lights? Simply, light draws bait, which draws fish. Realistically, any structure attracts bait, but if it has lights on at night it really attracts bait and quality fish.
West central Florida’s coastline offers plenty of inter-coastal waterways, canals, rivers and creeks with thousands of bridges and docks, many with lights. So, why not take advantage of this “fish in a barrel” scenario and use it to our advantage.
Night Fishing Plan: If you’re planning on night fishing; hopefully you don’t go unprepared. Plan your attack carefully and learn the area you intend to fish. Put together a fishing plan by identifying the important things you should know before it gets dark; shallow areas, unlighted obstructions, and channels can certainly cause problems, if you’re not prepared for the unsuspected.
Since nighttime is normally the soundless part of every day, it’s important to remember to be “Quiet”. Fish holding around docks and bridges will acclimate themselves to everyday noises, but any unusual, loud or sudden noise can send them scurrying away. Veteran nighttime anglers make their approach using a trolling motor (on low) or drifting/poling to within casting distance being careful to never crowd the target.
Examine and study the water as you approach any structure. Study the layout and lighted areas looking for shadows. Look carefully and you’ll often you’ll see them darting in and out feeding on passing baits. Here’s where patience pays off; wait and watch for a few minutes as it gives you time to identify their feeding pattern. This can make or break a spot, as proper bait and lure presentation is paramount.
When using artificial’s present them from the same direction as the current, Active currents bring food to waiting fish, so it only makes sense that your lure should come from the same direction. Cast your lure up current into the shadows, twitching it through the light line into the light.
Stealthy Anglers Win: Here’s a final thought about night fishing especially around residential docks. Not everyone’s as nocturnal as nighttime anglers. Remember, people are sleeping and probably could care less that you caught a 10 pound snook, so regardless of how elated you are, try keeping the hooray’s down to dull roar. Making loud noises especially late in the night annoys property owners, which forces them to turn off their dock lights. Just a little common sense and consideration is all it takes to keep a good thing going.
“Give Me a Call & Let’s Go Fishing” Captain Woody Gore is the area’s top outdoor fishing guide. Guiding and fishing the Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Tarpon Springs, Bradenton, and Sarasota areas for over fifty years; he offers world class fishing adventures and a lifetime of memories.
Single or Multi-boat Group Charters are all the same. With years of organizational experience and access to the areas most experienced captains, Woody can arrange and coordinate any outing or tournament. Just tell him what you need and it’s done. Visit his website at: WWW.CAPTAINWOODYGORE.COM, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call at 813-477-3814.