Fishing Tampa Bay
1 At Big Pier 60 in Clearwater, water remains muddy, keeping baitfish, and fish, away. Only thing caught Thursday was small bonnethead sharks and a couple of Spanish mackerel.
2 At Madeira Beach, grouper fishermen got a reprieve when a judge overturned the emergency rule to close federal waters to grouper fishing in November and December. Gag grouper action has been pretty good in 50-70 feet around ledges and rocks. Inshore water muddy, so no Spanish mackerel to speak of yet along beaches.
3 At John’s Pass, a smattering of kingfish, with a few in the 20-pound class past two weeks. Were some smokers beaches, but winds have dirtied water and kings may have moved farther out temporarily. Main migration not off Clearwater yet.
4 At Fort DeSoto Park, 34-inch snook on free-lined pinfish Thursday morning at the Gulf Pier. Been catching quite a few slot-sized redfish and snook, along with some mangrove snapper on live shrimp.
5 Around the Sunshine Skyway and lower Tampa Bay, Capt. Shawn Crawford of Lakeland (941-7610301 in Bradenton) reports water warmed back up to 71 degrees on Thursday, and snook and reds were turned on. His anglers caught 40-50 snook with two keepers, one at 40 inches, on the flats with greenbacks. Everybody caught a legal redfish, and Crawford said there’s bluefish up to 5 pounds “everywhere” on flats. First part of week fishing was tough, but warming water made the difference.
6 At Anna Maria, trick to fishing flats is getting out of the wind and working the tide changes in Sarasota Bay. Redfish and snook are the targets, with a few bluefish coming through. At the city pier, keeper snook going for pinfish or ballyhoo at night. Sheepshead just starting to pick up around pilings with cooler weather.
7 At St. Petersburg, mixed bag for Capt. Chuck Rogers (Rattlesnake Point Outfitters in south Tampa, 813918-8356) this week — redfish, snook, sheepshead and bluefish. Sheepshead picking up around Gandy and Skyway bridges on barnacles or green mussels, said Rogers. Bluefish up to 5 pounds on silver Crocodile spoons on deeper flats. Slotsized reds on greenbacks or large shrimp.
8 In the north end of Tampa Bay, redfish remain best bet on change of low tides when they fall early mornings before winds get too stiff. Double Branch and Rocky Creek areas at top of bay producing reds.
Capt. Bobby Blizzard of Lakeland (863661-6623) reports that the rivers “have exploded with life” over the past week, referring to the big Manatee, Alafia and Apollo Beach canals. He’s working outgoing tides, tossing creek chubs and live shrimp around shorelines and boat docks for reds up to 28 inches and snook up to 29 inches. Also getting sheepshead, black drum and mangrove snapper around structure.
At Sebastian Inlet, winter scenario getting under way, with keeper black drum (limit of five 14-24 inches with one over) picking up on north jetty on live shrimp and clams, nice-sized Spanish mackerel 3-4 pounds and bluefish 3-4 pounds in the inlet, reports Wabasso Bait and Tackle (772589-8518) near the inlet. A few flounder, which will get better as it gets colder. But redfish, slot-sized and mostly over 27 inches, still the primary target. And the snook crowd is managing a few keepers around bridge, but mostly undersized.
COMPILED BY DEL MILLIGAN