Tampa Fishing – Spring 2014

April 4th, 2014

Fishing has been slow but steady the last couple of months. The redfish run lasted until early March, when the schools that had been haunting Merry Pier dissipated – probably over to Shell Key and Ft. Desoto. But the black drum are still here, and biting. A 5 pound black drum, blackened in a cast iron skillet with Cajun seasoning, is just as tasty as a redfish!

No sign of bait yet, although there are glass minnows and fry appearing. Under the pier, giant snook are cruising, but they have lockjaw. Imagine that! Every now and then somebody will pull up a small flounder or porgy. Macks are making an appearance when the current is running strong. And sheepshead are back and biting, including a monster 5 pounder last weekend.

So far, no sign of mangrove snapper. Once the bait shows, they won’t be far behind. There are rumors of pompano in the Passes and at the Jetty. And, with grouper season closed until 7/1, nobody is targeting them (although I suspect they are hanging out in the usual spots). Cobia may be here, but, again, no one is targeting them… yet. A couple of weeks ago, I watched two 100+ pound tarpon hanging out and sunning themselves on the surface at McPhearson Bayou. That’s the earliest I can recall seeing them – and it bodes well for summer 2014 fishing in the Tampa Bay area!

Tampa Fishing 2014

January 13th, 2014

Sorry for the slow pace of updates – been pretty crazy. But the good news is – I HAVE been fishing! Spent a few days in Key West (report to follow), but otherwise, I have been hanging out on Merry Pier in St. Pete Beach. Believe it or not, as of 1/13/14, there is still bait to be netted at the Pier – very unusual that it is around this late. A few snapper are still hanging around.  For a couple of weeks, there were big black drum lurking among the pilings, and we landed a bunch from about 5 to 15 pounds. It was a slow flounder season – the anglers targeting them caught a few, but no banner catches, just a few here and there.

The big story is – REDFISH! For the last few weeks, when the water was clear, you could see them cruising at the bottom of the boat slips. Most were right at the top of the slot size, with a few bruisers mixed in. And I have the pictures to prove it:

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redfish1228redfish3redfish5

 

 

Tampa Bay Fishing – Fall 2013

November 12th, 2013

The last few weeks have seen the transition from summer to fall patterns. The bait is, for the most part, gone. There are still a few lingering mangrove snapper, but they have been running really small. The snook vanished as well. The flounder are just beginning to move in – I have seen several 15-22″ flounder landed over the last few weeks. The big push may come with the cold front arriving this week.

Grouper MAY still be around, but winds and tides have not been favorable for targeting them. A surprise visitor over the last couple weeks has been black drum! Sizes have ranged from 10″ to over 3 feet. I landed several in the 7-8 pound range, along with a stray redfish. Rumors of cobia have been floating around, but I have yet to see one caught.

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Big Fish Lurking

September 15th, 2013

Pass-A-Grille continues to offer great late summer fishing. And, are there big gag grouper around? Yes. Yes, there are.

 

St Pete Fishing Remains Outstanding

September 9th, 2013

Fishing in St Pete Beach and Pass-A-Grille is fantastic! A few highlights include nurse sharks, bonnet sharks, red grouper, gag grouper, mangrove snapper, flounder, hogfish, sand perch, Key West grunts, lane snapper, porgies and more. Most of my efforts have been focused on the monster gags and snook hanging around Pass-A-Grille. The snook seem to have lockjaw, but the grouper are biting – and wrecking my 80 lb test tackle!

Red Hot August Fishing

August 19th, 2013

It’s been a great summer! The Mangrove Snapper bite is the best I’ve seen in years. At the Merry Pier in St. Pete Beach, it’s been a limit of 12″ to 15″ mangos every day, along with scores of 6-11″ fish. The snook are right where they’re supposed to be, and are readily biting – at least until 9/1/13. I’ve been hooking a few monster grouper, but no success in getting them to the net. Plenty of 12-18″ gags, though. Macks are everywhere, busting bait and hitting anything small, shiny and fast moving.

One surprise this weekend was a 28″ cobia. Not quite big enough (33″ is the minimum), but fun anyway. My buddy Tim was in the Keys for the lobster mini season, and they tore up the bugs. A few pictures:

 

Summer Snapper Fishing is Red Hot!

July 10th, 2013

OK, first the bad news – 10 days into gag grouper season, and I haven’t nailed a keeper. Yet. A few shorts, a few brutes that rocked up and cut me off, a few caught by other anglers, but no grouper nuggets for me. Yet….

But, still plenty of fresh fish each weekend. The Pass-A-Grille and St. Pete Beach mangrove snapper season continues to heat up. My brother and I caught over 100 last weekend, mostly 8-10 inches, but enough 12″+ fish for a two person limit. All you need is a good tide. Incoming or outgoing, doesn’t matter. Morning, mid-day, evening, doesn’t matter. As long as the tide is flowing, the snapper are biting. Live shrimp are the best bet, and they rarely last more than a few seconds once they reach the schooling fish. Small pinfish and greenbacks are the ticket for the larger fish. And, strangely, there are still flounder around! I saw three keepers, to 15″ within a 60 minute span Saturday. Snook are around, too.

Meanwhile, a shout out to Captain Greg Doherty, a Tampa Fishing Guide  and USCG licensed captain. If you’re looking to book a charter, give him a call!

Inshore Mangrove Snapper Fishing

June 17th, 2013

It looks to be a banner year for mangrove snapper fishing in the south Pinellas area. The have taken up residence at every structure – bridges, jetty’s, docks, piers, rockpiles – you name, there’s snapper on it. And they are running pretty big, considering it’s only mid- June. By late fall, there may be some monsters (well, inshore ‘monsters’, anyway).

My brother Allen and I hit the Merry Pier in Pass-A-Grille on Sunday morning. The tide was running pretty strong, and outgoing. We tossed live shrimp up under the dock in the first three finger slips, using 30 lb fluorocarbon leaders, 1/4 oz slip sinkers and size 2 circle hooks. Action was fast and furious – as soon as the shrimp hit the bottom (and sometimes sooner), the fish were on it. Most were in the 8 to 10 inch range, but when we got one a foot or longer, into the cooler it went. When the tide began to slow, we moved to the end of the pier – and so did the snapper. They sure like fast moving water. We ended up going through about 15 dozen shrimp, caught at least 70-80 snapper, and kept our two person limit. Good eating!

Other reports include occasional flounder; trout and snook at Blind Pass (including a 38″ brute caught Thursday); stray redfish here and there; lots of macks and ladyfish anywhere the bait is thick and the water is clear; and a few sheepshead, although nobody’s really targeting them.

Offshore, fishing is on fire! Miss Pass-A-Grille has been coming back loaded every trip. My friend Neal had a great adventure on the 39 hour trip out of John’s Pass, and he brought back a cooler full, including this beautiful American Red Snapper:

Neal's Red Snapper

Summer Fishing Patterns

June 12th, 2013

With June in full swing, mornings and evenings are the ticket for St. Petersburg area fishing. Looks like Sunday will have a decent outgoing tide early in the day, so I’ll be targeting snapper. If I manage an early limit (quite likely), it’ll be time to sling a big pinfish into the deeper, faster water in search of sharks, cobia or tarpon. I stopped at Blind Pass yesterday for a couple minutes, and managed a nice sea trout on a jig.

Back to the Pier!

June 6th, 2013

After 10 very long months in the desert, I am back on the Beach and fishing again! I have made it down to Merry Pier a couple times, and the fishing is starting to heat up. The mangrove snapper are thick under the dock and boathouse, and 5 fish limits of the tasty foot long fish have been pretty easy on live shrimp. Closer to the seawall, the snook are lined up facing the outgoing tide, and a freelined jumbo shrimp is just the ticket. Bait is plentiful and large under and around the pier, and there are plenty of mackerel, jacks and ladyfish lurking. I have seen some really large stingrays caught, and a few anglers have been nailed by SOMETHING big in the deeper water – probably sharks or cobia. No sign of the tarpon yet, although they should be around. Still a few stray grouper and flounder, but not worth targeting. Stay tuned – I should be providing weekly updates again.