Inshore Fishing Report
Sheepshead still seems to be the best option inshore lately. We have some tough weather situations but thankfully the sheepshead love some nasty weather and stirred up water. They seem to flourish when other species shut down due to weather. We are seeing them around the docks, piers, bridges, and jetties. Often, when we have to cancel trips, you can still go catching by coming down and fishing our docks with the pieces of shrimp, cut oysters, clams or even some barnacles. Targeting them as close to structure as possible is always going to give you the best chances.
Snook are around, but they are tucked back into the upper bay and back bay areas trying to stay as warm as possible in this cooler time of year. They are going to be hiding on the sundrenched, wind protected shorelines, or in the deeper holes as you move into the back country or at the start of rivers, creeks or bayous. Looking for them with some big dead baits, slow moving artificials or big dead baits are a great option. Often you can find some really big fish back there if you can get them to eat.
Trout action is also going well around the area, especially on the shallower flats during the day, and around the dock and bridge lights at night. You can find some deeper holes and pockets holding plentiful trout too. They are all about the live shrimp, but will take white bait if you can find it as well. Go to lures for trout are going to be soft plastics typically especially the Mirrorlure provoker on a 16th ounce head or a doa shrimp.
Redfish action is going well around the dock lines of the area, especially those docks close to the flats or mangroves. We are also seeing a lot of them on the flats, oyster bars and mangroves shorelines of the area if you can find some areas protected from the wind and drenched with plenty of sun. They are more cold tolerant than the snook, but they still enjoy finding that warmer water.
Save the Seabirds
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 them safely.
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 losing 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/
Nearshore Fishing Report
Hogfish is our focus near shore, but weather has made it tricky to get out there. Plus, on the handful of days we are able to get out there its been tougher with cold, wind and murky water. We need a decent weather window to get the hogfish cooperating really well for us. Looks like we may have a good shot Monday if the weather continues to stay like it is forecasted now.
Lane snapper are also biting well near shore and yesterday’s ten hour crushed some nice sized lanes on the HUB. We got good numbers of them too! Great time to get out there and catch plenty of lane snapper while hunting the occasional hogfish and mangrove snapper.
Mangrove snapper are biting pretty decently near shore, but we still see more and larger ones out deeper in the offshore waters. However, we are seeing a handful of the mangroves in shallower and were happy when we do!
Offshore FIshing Report
We would love to get offshore again soon, but unfortunately the weather has made it entirely too challenging to even make it offshore. We have only fished one day so far in 2024 in the offshore waters and that was the first day of the year! We are hoping to get back out deep soon as the fat red grouper are ready to rock and roll and we are hoping to crush them. Plus, we typically see a lot of the blackfin tuna this time of year offshore too while trolling, flat line fishing or jig fishing.
Return 'Em Right
REMEMBER, when fishing deeper near shore and 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/