It’s going to get a little windy and bumpy this weekend as this front moves in but we have a new moon which is going to get that water moving and we should have some great fishing inshore around that tidal slow late Saturday and into the start of the week. Lots of bait inshore has these fish feeding actively and moving around quite a bit. Plus, the barometer moving around and changing temperatures add to that excitement for our inshore species as well.
Redfish action is HOT right now around the entire area. We are seeing redfish like we saw snook in the summer from the beaches to the upper bay area. We are seeing them during the day on the flats, around the mangrove shorelines, some on the dock lines and in the passes too. They are on the bottom for the most part looking for live shrimp or green backs and cut bait is working well too. On the shallow flats, even though they are working the bottom you can find big numbers of them tailing around the shallow edges of the oyster bars and grass flats in good numbers. Looking for birds, schools of mullet or bait to show you where the fish are congregating. Potholes, cuts, and swash channels adjacent to the flats are great areas for the fish to school up as well. Soft plastic paddle tails continue to be a great option for the redfish but the slow-moving jerk baits and artificial shrimp work well too.
Snook action is still going well through the area, but there is a noticeable change in the number of fish. We are seeing more active and aggressive redfish primarily through the area. However, there are some areas on the flats you can find the snook in good numbers. We are still seeing a few in the passes at night and around the dock lights but the redfish are there too in more concentrated numbers. Lots of bait around have the snook fat and happy so you must get them at the right tide and have a good presentation to get them eating.
Trout action is steady through the area. We are seeing them at night around the dock lights and bridge lights. During the day on or near the flats, mangrove shorelines or dock lines. Slower moving baits are key with the trout like the soft plastics. Live shrimp or green backs and lighter tackle will help you too. Look for the potholes, edges, or pockets these fish can lie in wait and ambush passing bait getting pushed off the grass flats, through the pass or whatever area is holding them towards the ambush point a trout maybe hiding in.
Mackerel are thick right now and only getting more prolific as the water temperatures get right. We are seeing them all over the beaches, passes and even up into the bay on the flats. Local fishing piers are inundated with the mackerel around all the plentiful bait. Casting spoons with a casting weight, Gotcha plugs, or other fast-moving flashy plugs you can cast far and retrieve quickly are great options for the mackerel right now. You can also free line some live green backs for them too. The best option is a long shank 1ot hook to allow you to use floro leader while having some protection from those sharp teeth mackerel have.
Mangrove snapper are still numerous around our local structures but are starting to be replaced more and more by the sheepshead. Each cold front will make those sheepshead show up more and more and those mangrove snapper will push back up into the mangroves if they are smaller and the big ones will move near shore off the inshore areas they called home as juvenile fish.
Black drum action has picked up a bit around our local docks and bridges. We had some local young anglers fishing the docks of Johns Pass catching quite a few of these black drum using dead shrimp on the bottom. Crabs are also great options. They love those stinky dead baits on the bottom adjacent to structures.
Triple tail action is starting to pick up through the area. Stone crab season opened yesterday and there is a ton of crab buoys near shore and around the bay area that create plenty of hiding spots for these triple tails to hide around. Using a popping cork with around 8-10 inches of light 15lb test and a live shrimp on a 1-2ot hook is a great set up to run those crab buoy lines and look for these dark colored great eating fish hiding out next to the buoys. If you spot one, overcast the buoy and retrieve your cork and live shrimp closer to the buoy into the strike zone and see if you cannot fool them into eating. They are smart and leader shy fish, but they are incredibly good eating and fun to catch.
Flounder are steady, nothing crazy but we are seeing a few around the area especially around the sandy bottoms adjacent to the flats, docks, or bridges and that bite is only going to get better in the coming weeks.
Near Shore & Offshore-
Unfortunately, the weather is turning a little adverse on us tonight and will persist for the coming days but hopefully another weather window will pop up soon to allow us to get back near shore and offshore fishing. We have a new moon upon us, this will make that water move around and those fish should eat good if we can make it out to them past the weather. Plus, the barometer changes excited the fish the past few days and once this weather calms, they should pick right back up where they left off.
Hogfish action is heating up as the waters cool. We are seeing some good action on the hogfish and it will be great soon. Around 30-80ft of water is where we are seeing them best right now. They love that light tackle, live shrimp, 20-30lb test, 3-4ot hook and either a knocker rig, jig head, or nekid ball jig. Look for them around that flat hard bottom area with relief like the sea fans, small ledges, or areas adjacent to the rock piles and other relief. These fish will scavenge an area and hang up off the bottom a bit cruising for crustaceans over an area. They live in harems of 5-7 fish so when you find a smaller female there is a big male near by too. When you find one, there is more there as well. Typically, you have to fish an area awhile to get the aggressive fish out of the way and then you can get that hogfish bite going for a short time before they shut down and you have to move onto the next area. They are smart, leader shy and unaggressive for the most part but incredibly good to eat and hard fighting once you hook up.
Gag grouper action is also picking up as the water cools. We are seeing a few of these guys in the inshore waters around Tampa bay some guys are having great luck trolling the skyway channel and fishing from the skyway to Egmont around rock piles in the bay. However, we are seeing the bigger fish out deeper still around 80-160ft is a great area to target some bigger gag grouper right now. They will continue to press closer to shore with each cold front as they move in to feed heavily in preparation for their early spring spawn. This winter time aggregation near shore is all in preparation for the spawn and that’s why they can be so aggressive and prolific closer to shore it’s all female fish preparing for a big move out to deeper waters to spawning sites across the gulf’s shelf area. They love big live baits and they will rock you up quickly so having some bigger tackle is key with a lot of patience as they are very smart fish that take a great presentation and a still lead on the bottom to get them to eat your big frisky live bait.
Red grouper action still going well around 70-140ft of water we are seeing some good numbers of red grouper action on the potholes, flat hard bottom and smaller ledges. They love big pieces of dead cut bait or even some live baits. They will not rock you up like the gags, but they can still give you a run for your money when you hook up.
Mangrove snapper action is going well right now even in a little shallower water than normal as many inshore fish start to move out deeper. We are seeing them around 60-140ft of water right now feeding well around the rock piles, ledges, and wrecks. They love big structure where plenty of bait is present and they will eat those threadfin plugs with double snell rigs or live shrimp. In shallower, I like using around 20-30lb test and live shrimp on a jig head or knocker rig. You can catch mangrove snapper, hogfish, lane snapper and plenty more with this approach. Out a little deeper past around 100ft of water I would more often lean towards using the double snell approach with a plugged piece of threadfin or sardine.
Lane snapper are also biting very well around 60-110ft of water we are seeing plentiful lane snapper and you can target them like you would target the mangrove snapper or hogfish. These a great eating fish that we are seeing higher numbers of lately in a bigger overall size as well. Great time to go get out there and target snapper, grouper and maybe a hogfish!
Amberjack action was decent this week for us on our long-range trips. Finally, some decent weather allowed us to go deep past around 140ft of water where these guys reside. They are a little spread out and tough towards the end of their season to find in big numbers, but they are open until the end of October if you want a chance to get after them.
Mackerel are thick and super prolific from the beaches throughout the near shore waters right now. Lots of bait around means plenty of mackerel feeding well near shore. We have caught a few small kingfish mixed in with the mackerel but in the coming week or so we should see those kingfish start to show up more and more with the mackerel too! Going to be an exciting end to October as we prepare for the meat of the fall run of mackerel and kingfish.
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