Weekend Fishing 4Cast for West Central Florida
Heavy rains with cloud-to-ground lightning have been a threat to boaters over the past week. While the prediction of rain and thunderstorms will decrease this week, the threat for one of those deadly thunderstorms popping up remains present. As always, file a float plan and keep an eye on the weather.
This is your last shot at keeping an American red snapper for the 2020 season if you’re headed offshore on a federally permitted vessel for hire through August 1 at midnight. The red snapper season for recreational private boats was August 25. This has been a banner season for anglers. Catches have been reported in as shallow as 60-feet, but that’s not been the norm. Good catches of these fish have come from 120-feet but for some of the largest red snapper, anglers bottom dropping in the Middle Grounds have pulled up some real behemoths.
Amberjack season reopens August 1. Lots of these beasts are being caught on offshore springs in depths greater than 100-feet. Deepwater wrecks are also producing the big AJ’s. Blue runners are excellent for these fish. They respond well to chumming over wrecks and can be brought up to the surface. Topwater chuggers can be worked on the surface, creating a disturbance that draws some vicious strikes.
For the most part, anglers continue to target gag grouper and mangrove snapper on a daily basis. Gags remain open much of the year but there is no closure on mangrove snapper. The mango bite has slowed since last month, and gag fishing has been tougher as well for most. However, some good action has been had by anglers working the “Ditch”, also known as the Egmont Key Ship’s Channel leading out of Tampa Bay. The pipeline that also leaves the bay and goes into the Gulf has also held good numbers of gag grouper. The shallow water gags are typically smaller, taping out from 22 to 26-inches with some occasional larger fish. Live pinfish have been a top producer.
Anglers didn’t make many offshore trips due to bad weather and thunderstorms last week. This week, storms have been hit and miss along the coast as they moved offshore, but overall, the week has seen some open windows of decent weather to get out. Most report good early morning action but mid-day fishing has remained much slower.
With lighter east winds this week, waters near shore are improving in clarity. With that, Spanish mackerel are showing up in some areas within a mile or so of the beaches. Look for south Pinellas and north Manatee between Bean Point and Pass-A-Grille in the Egmont Key area to produce some fish. Look for bait pods and diving birds for the top action. Glass minnows are showing up again along with a hatch of small whitebait. Anchoring up and deploying a frozen chum block of glass minnows will draw these fish in. Fast-moving jigs and spoons will trigger strikes or live whitebait or shrimp can fill a cooler quickly with a limit.
Fast-moving thunderstorms have brought a deluge of rainfall this past week cooling area waters temporarily. Several inches of rain in some areas has created a drop in temperature of over 10-degrees. That along with changing salinity in many areas might be moving fish. The saying, “here today and gone tomorrow” can apply here. But if you know what you’re looking for, you can find good action. Residential canals with storm drains can produce some currents with water flowing out of drain pipes running from retention ponds and streets. Many times, small forage fish will move out with the overflow drains, producing a flow of small fish into the canals. Snook are notorious for ambushing their prey and these locations can surely become feeding stations just after a hard rain.
There has been some improvement in redfish numbers over the past week. Some anglers reported some of the larger breeder-sized fish being caught. Next week’s full moon on August 3 could produce a push of big reds in from the Gulf. This is a normal occurrence here. If not on the full moon, then likely these fish will show in better numbers around the new moon. Water temperatures and weather, in general, have been different this year with more extreme heat and more storms than the norm. Tropical weather, disturbances, and hurricanes will also play a part on the movement of these fish. But look for the strong incoming highest tides of the day for these fish to begin showing up.
Good action for catch and release snookin’ has been going on up and down the Suncoast. Most of the passes are holding breeding snook, and the upcoming full moon will see more action in these areas. A stretch of beach for several hundred yards north or south of a pass will usually hold some snook that are feeding in the surf along the shoreline. In times when the beaches are not crowded, fly anglers can have some good action here with snook. White minnow fly patterns or patterns like glass minnows, crabs, or sand fleas can produce good results for snook in the surf. In areas with no structure, a light 5-weight fly rod might suffice but overall, the 8-wt. rod might be the best all-around rod rigged with a 25-pound tippet.
Live bait anglers are seeing some of the best action of the year with snook. Chumming can be very effective when done sparingly, but can both attract and also shut the fishing down if overdone, but it seems to be the only method of attracting and holding fish in an area. Like most other animals fish can become accustomed to this practice of being fed. They lose their fear of boats and anglers. For this reason, it’s illegal to feed alligators, dolphins, and many other wild species.
Trout fishing in the northern regions of our West Central area is firing up. Anglers working waters in Hernando County are seeing some nice specks being caught on slow-sinking or suspending plugs like the MirrOlure MirrOdine. Attracting fish without using live bait can be a challenge, but using popping corks with a jig or a DOA Deadly Combo that uses the DOA Shrimp can out-produce many other methods of attracting trout without live bait. Scented baits might help to a small degree, but the sound of rattling lures and popping corks does the job very effectively.
Lakes are peaking at near overflow levels with all the recent rains. It makes for some tougher fishing with increased areas for fish to travel. Expanding perimeters of lakes will raise water levels higher than the norm, exposing insects that live on the perimeter of the lake shores to the water and fish. Fishing fly rods for these fish is the perfect scenario to present a natural-looking forage of hand-tied feathers, thread, fur, and more. So, shorelines might be a good place to start looking for panfish and bass. Lake Manatee down in Bradenton has been a hot spot for bream and bass recently. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!