Hubbard's Marina Fishing Report
Inshore Fishing Report
Another week without red tide in the forecast for our area is something to celebrate! However, we are not going to sit complacent until another bloom comes. We are working with Capt Planet’s eco preservation project to raise funds to place artificial reefs around our area to ‘soften’ the coastline and provide more filtration for our marine eco system. With the help of Tampa Bay fishing outfitters we are going to work with our partners to raise more funds to get even more reefs installed after our initial project gets installed early December! Stay tuned for more information on that project. Here is the latest forecast and levels from the USF and FWC collaborative efforts -> http://ocgweb.marine.usf.edu/tbm/hab/
Snook action has been going well around passes and even on the beaches. We have a very cold week ahead with some big fronts in the lineup which will help to continue to push the fish out of the passes and off the beaches to a more wintertime pattern of staging in the back bays around river, creek, and bayou mouths. You can also find them in the back muddy canals around docks. For now, target those snook around the structures where water is moving and bait is present and look for the points, pockets, or choke points like passes or areas where fish can stage and let the bait come to them without expending much energy. Once you find the fish, make sure you are presenting your bait naturally and working your lure with the current to ensure it appears natural and gives you the best opportunity for the fish to bite!
Redfish have also been present, but are getting a little more spread out and harder to find in large concentrations. With some effort you can find them following schools of mullet or bait fish around the flats, mangroves, or oyster bars. We are on a full moon right now so that is going to provide for plenty of moving current to get the fish feeding more through the weekend. With the full moon low tides you will have the opportunity to explore the area you typically fish to find potholes and cuts that will concentrate the fish at lower tides. With the full moon high tides, look for the fish around the mangrove shore lines or those oyster bars that are normally extremely shallow or nearly out of the water as the fish use the higher tides to hunt these areas for the plentiful crustaceans that have proliferated with the red tide blooms as of late.
Trout action has been a little soft, but we are seeing some very large trout when they are caught. We are seeing some nice trout around the dock lights and bridge lights near the passes where water is moving and there’s bait present. Around edges of the grass flats and the potholes and cuts adjacent to the flats are good areas to look as well. Plus, around the docks adjacent to the flats or areas holding bait is a good area to look for trout as well.
Sheepshead action is heating up well as the waters continue to cool off. We are seeing bigger and bigger concentrations of sheepshead around our dock lines, bridges, jetties and seawalls. We are not far from the big schools of sheepshead amassing around our local rock piles as they prepare for the near shore migrations to spawn.
Black drum are biting well around docks, bridges, and the mangroves too. Look for them using live shrimp, small crabs or slow moving soft plastics in these areas they frequent. Large dock structures or bridges are good areas to find the black drum and while sheepshead fishing you will often run across these black drum too.
Jack crevalle are prolific around the area right now and we are seeing quite a few of these fish moving around the bay. Look for birds feeding at the edges of the flats or around the bridges or passes. The birds feeding will give insight to possible big areas of bait schools which often contain jack crevalle or mackerel under the surface pushing the baits to the surface to attract the feeding seabirds. We are seeing these areas around the beaches, passes, and bays occasionally so just keep your eyes open while moving around the area to take advantage of the activity.
Tripletail are thick around the beaches and bay right now. Look for them as you cruise between spots. You will find them hiding under crab trap buoys or around floating debris or markers around the area. FWC requires them to be fairly large to keep, but the small ones make great fun sight fishing on light tackle. The triple tail have to be a minimum of 18 inches overall to keep and you have a bag limit of two fish.
Pompano action has picked up as our local waters have cleared up and were seeing a more healthy flow of water and bait through our passes and along our beaches. Look for these guys around the passes, beaches, and sandy areas adjacent to the flats.
Nearshore Fishing Report
Gag grouper action continues to pick up around the near shore waters adjacent to our coast line. We are seeing them around the Egmont key shipping channel get more and more aggressive and prolific. By my definition, near shore means from the beach out to around 100ft of water or from the beach to around 20 miles. However, the Tampa Bay topography lends itself to mimicking the near shore bite often around the shipping channel as it is at a minimum of 40ft through the channel. The channel edges often hold rock piles and ledges that will provide plenty of habitat for the gag grouper to hide. We are finding them off the beach out to around 20 miles in the same structures like rock piles and ledges where there’s some bait present. They are loving the frisky and larger live baits like pinfish, pigfish and squirrelfish. Use around 60-80lb test and about 6-7ot hooks near shore to target the gags. Keep in mind though, often the near shore gags in shallower water will fight even harder than their deeper water counter parts because they never give up. Often, when the gags loose sight of the bottom they loose a lot of their ‘fight’, however near shore they don’t loose sight of the bottom so they tend to fight hard all the way to the surface making it a bit more challenging to land them successfully.
Mangrove snapper action has picked up recently near shore too and we are seeing some good size to the near shore mangroves. Some in the 20-26 inch range have been landed this past week while a majority are above 16 inches which is a decent size near shore. We are hoping this trend continues like we have seen the past few years with a good mangrove bite near shore through the cooler months into February and March when the water starts to warm and we see them most active deeper once again.
Hogfish action is picking up well. We are seeing more and more of these great eating unique looking fun to catch fish near shore each week. They love lighter tackle and live shrimp and they are hanging around 40-80ft of water. Look for them around the smaller ledges and the flat hard bottom areas with cracks, crevasses, and seafans of the hard bottom. They will even spread out over that shell bottom area to scavenge for crustaceans.
Mackerel and kingfish are still around near shore, but finding the areas of the bait is a bit tricky. When you find the bait you will find the mackerel and some kingfish too. We are able to find some ledges, structures and wrecks that hold bait deeper that will be holding some kings and mackerel, but definitely not like it should be for this time of year.
Offshore Fishing Report
The gag grouper bite was a little soft for us on this last 39 hour trip overall, but those who knew how to get the finicky fish to feed were catching them well. One angler caught 30% of the gags caught on the boat using a little lighter 80lb leader. Instead of hooking bait under the chin, he was hooking them just above their anal fin and dropping them down more slowly and once hitting bottom stretching out that leader and holding bottom actively while making sure that lead wasn’t moving. That enabled him to hook up and land more gag grouper than anyone else. Often when the bite is slower for the grouper, that is a great approach. I always tend to hook them under the chin and out the top of the head, but when the bite slows tail hooking them works well but when you do this its more likely to get tangled as the bait goes down to the bottom spinning so you have to cast it out a bit and then slow the descent of the bait more with more pressure from your thumb on the spool.
Scamp grouper bite is still going well out deeper when we are in 140-160ft of water. They are extremely good eating fish and are fun to catch using threadfin or smaller pinfish.
Mangrove snapper are biting well out deep in about 120ft of water where we are seeing a steady mangrove snapper bite. They are really loving the threadfin plugs and double snell rig. This will help you catch more mangrove snapper with their quick bites and tendency to steal the bait.
Blackfin tuna are thick offshore right now and we typically see quite a few this time of year as they move north to spawn. We also see some nice kingfish and the occasional wahoo out there as well so keep the flat line out while offshore fishing this time of year!