St Pete Beach Fishing – December 2014

December 17th, 2014

Fishing, like the weather, has been hot and cold. On the rumor front, word has it that a “20+ pound” gag grouper was taken from under Merry Pier, along with a smaller 24″ fish. Since the close of grouper season, I have not targeted them, so maybe it’s time to reconsider.

Flounder seem to be winding down. There are still keepers around, but most seem to be around 12″, too small to keep. They run in waves – 4 or 5 will be caught in the space of a few minutes, then nothing for a couple hours (or more).

Redfish continue to bite. My brother Allen has been slaying them. He has caught fish over the slot, under the slot, and at the top of the slot.

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The 2014 Tampa Bay Flounder Run Commences

December 3rd, 2014

Here it is, already December. The mangrove snapper have almost entirely moved on, except for the occasional one or two. Grouper season has ended, with very few in evidence (although they’ll probably be EVERYWHERE now that the season is over). Snook have sought warmer waters. Cobia are nowhere to be seen. So, what IS biting?

Flounder. Nice ones. And, when they turn on, lots of them. Soft plastics bumped slowly along the bottom are accounting for the most fish, although a big live shrimp will work too, if it can survive the puffer onslaught. Most of the fish are very solid at 16″ to 20″. I have not yet seen a true ‘doormat’ landed, but I suspect it won’t be long.

At Merry Pier is South St. Pete Beach, redfish have again moved in to the boat slips and under the pier. Most seem to be below or above the slot limits, but my brother landed a sweet 26″ red on Sunday.

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Cold Front Fishing 2014

November 11th, 2014

Seems we’ve had two substantial cold fronts over the last two weekends. While it should serve to drive the flounder and grouper into our bays, it makes for challenging fishing conditions. It’s been a little hit and miss for me. A small snook here, a flounder there, and a few small grouper and snapper mixed in. The highlight was last Saturday, when at least 20 keeper flounder were landed at Merry Pier, along with some smaller throwbacks. There were even a few slot and oversize redfish in the mix.
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Fall 2014 Fishing – Tampa Bay Florida

October 20th, 2014

Snapper are moving out – fast. We managed a dozen or so this weekend, with a single legal fish. That’s OK, though. As the water cools, the fishing is changing rapidly. I got a nice 15 pound black drum over the weekend. Great eating – just like redfish, if you remember to remove the bloodline.  And my brother landed a quality 28″ gag grouper. There were plenty of short grouper too, along with a few small snook, and a couple of short flounder. Bait was abundant and large on Saturday, but had mostly moved out Sunday. that’s how quick things can change this time of year!

The big surprise came Sunday as Roger was using a Sabiki rig for pinfish. He got a few Lane snapper, then, lo and behold, a YELLOWTAIL SNAPPER! First one I’ve ever seen in Boca Ciega Bay in St. Pete Beach. You never know what fishing here will bring.

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Fall Fishing is Upon Us!

September 29th, 2014

Wow = almost October. Yes, I’ve been a little lax in updates, but it has been because of my crazy schedule, and not from a lack of fishing. In fact, I’ve managed to wet a line at least a few hours every weekend since my last update. At the Merry Pier, the story has been snapper. Snapper, snapper and more snapper. Big ones, medium ones and a few little ‘uns. Most days I have managed a limit of big ones (12″ to 18″ fish) after 2-3 hours of fishing. But, over the last couple of weeks, the snapper bite has started to cool off. They’re still around, and some are really big, but they’ve slowed down and thinned out as the migration offshore has begun. I suspect there will be a few lingering for the next few weeks.

There is still a ton of bait around, mostly still small stuff. Pinfish and spotail pins are making there presence felt for anyone using shrimp.

Cobia are around, and while not reliable, I have seen at least one caught every weekend. So far, Juan scored the only keeper; most are running 25″ to 32″.

Gag grouper are picking up. I am still hunting my first keeper of the season, but I’ve landed lots of shorts. And I have seen pictures of quality fish to 30″ from the last week or two,

I am optimistic about flounder season, which is just a cold front or two away. Lots of flounder have been showing, but they’re all running very small. A good front, one that drops the water temperature by at least a couple degrees should bring the big fish inshore.

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Tampa Bay Snapper Fishing 2014

August 11th, 2014

I love this time of year! Big snapper are everywhere, and they’re hungry. I catch most of mine at the Merry Pier in St. Pete Beach, Florida. Here’s how:

Tackle: I use a Star rod and Penn reel spooled with 25 lb. Spiderwire. Terminal tackle consists of a 2 foot section of 30 pound fluorocarbon leader, a #1 offset circle hook, and a swivel. Above the swivel is a sliding egg sinker – the size depends on the current at that time. Be aware that there may be other fish lurking among the mangos, including redfish, snook, grouper, flounder and black drum, so better to be prepared just in case.

Bait: Live shrimp. The bigger, the better. I have had good luck with whitebait, greenbacks and silver Jenny’s, but nothing beats a live shrimp, hooked through the horn so it can kick freely. If the water is murky, I may tail hook them.

Techniques: Snapper love moving water. Incoming or outgoing tide doesn’t seem to matter, although high tide is better than low tide. Keep in mind that the snapper will be facing into the current, so float your shrimp back to them. They may be underneath the Pier, anywhere from the seawall out to the end, and they can also be found among the rocks and structure on the northeast side of the Pier.

The Payoff: You are allowed to keep up to five mangrove snapper per person, per day. The minimum size is 10″ overall (yes, you can ‘pinch’ the tail), but I suggest throwing back anything less than a foot. There are plenty pf smaller fish, but the big ones are there too. I have limited out every weekend for the last month, with 12″ to 18″ fish. Mangrove snapper are excellent blackened, fried, and sauteed. They freeze well if you have a vacumn sealer (and you should have one).

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Merry Pier Aerial Views

July 25th, 2014

Merry Pier from Timothy Healy on Vimeo.

Amazing drone footage of Pass-A-Grille and the Merry Pier from Tim Healy, a professional photographer in Tampa.

Snapper continue to dominate the fishing picture as we approach August, 2014. Snook are thick under the pier and by the seawall, but they are currently out of season. Grouper are around, but not in abundance. Juan wrestled in a 21″ gag last weekend, an encouraging sign. The bait is getting bigger each week. A few recent photos:snapper714pompano714

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Snapperfest 2014 Continues

July 6th, 2014

Despite my best efforts, Independence Day weekend yielded no grouper. I did have a few hits, but couldn’t connect. The biggest obstacle was a ripping outgoing tide at sunrise. Maybe next weekend….

Meanwhile, the mangrove snapper bite is still on fire. Targeting them at The Merry Pier in St. Pete Beach, I caught and released them by the dozens, keeping only a few 12″ to 15″ fish. Bait is thick, but still really small. I soaked a pinfish in the Pass-A-Grille Channel in hopes of a cobia, but no dice.

Snapper, Snapper, and More Snapper

July 1st, 2014

June turned out to be a fantastic month for mangrove snapper fishing in St. Pete Beach. The run started early, and the fish were big – and hungry! As usual, live shrimp proved the best bait, although some nice ones have been taken on micro-greenbacks and small pinfish. There have been some quality fish, in excess of 15″ and three pounds, and there have been plenty of 8″ to 12″ mangos as well. Last weekend, I managed over a hundred between me and my fishing buddies, although we only kept the largest ones. Remember, 5 fish per person, and a minimum size of 10″ overall.

Next up – gag grouper season, which begins today. I’ll be after them hard over the long holiday weekend, and should have a report next week.

Fishing is Getting Hot!

May 23rd, 2014

As the Gulf and bay water temperatures slowly rise, the fishing is picking up nicely. This is a great time of year to wet a line, as you never know what might be biting. I have been spending weekends wrangling redfish, mangrove snapper (some nice ‘uns, too), sheepshead, black drum and grouper in St. Pete Beach and the Pass-A-Grille area. Redfish are in the passes at high tide, and tarpon are basking in the shallow bays on calm days.

A few ‘catching up’ pictures:
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