Upcoming Full Moon Means Great Fishing FRANK SARGEANT
The full moon in May is the angler’s moon when it comes to inshore saltwater fishing. That lunar cycle, which falls on May 23 this year, marks the time when adult snook will head to the passes en masse to spawn, and tarpon will migrate along our beaches by the hundreds.
With water temperature finally into the 80s, these subtropical fish are in their preferred comfort zone in Bay area waters, and the action should be as good as it gets for the next several months.
Finding snook is a matter of working the passes that feed to the beaches, as well as the larger outflows to inside bays. The fish hang around the mouths of Cockroach Bay and Bishop’s Harbor on Tampa Bay, and around the deeper outflows from Bull and Turtle Bay on Charlotte Harbor, as examples. Other famed snook passes include Clearwater Pass, Blind Pass, Longboat, Sarasota, Venice, Stump and nearly every pass south into the Everglades.
The fish gather in schools of 10 to several hundred, typically in depths of 4 to 10 feet. When the water is clear, the aggregations can be seen by a practiced eye. Gathering spots are often around the first jetty or side bay inside the pass, where the fish can get a bit of protection from the current and from passing dolphin.
The season is closed, so this is strictly catch-and-release fishing, but it’s fast action, and the fish frequently run well into the 30-inch range. Most anglers fish live scaled sardines for snook in the passes, though threadfins and pinfish also work, particularly for larger fish. Among artificials, the DOA Baitbuster, DOA Shrimp and Tsunami swim baits in the 6-inch length are highly effective, and the single-hook lures are easily removed for safe release.
The tarpon season is late this year, but it’s sure to be going strong by May 23.
Tarpon typically travel along the beaches anywhere from 100 feet off the sand to a mile out, and can be spotted during the usually calm mornings as they roll at the surface, circle in nose-to-tail “daisy chains” and attack bait. Fish are likely to be sighted anywhere from Anclote Key south to Naples at this time of year. The waters between Egmont Pass and Sarasota Pass are particularly productive in May.
Like snook, the tarpon seem to become extra active around the new and full moon periods. Also, like snook, some of the biggest fish of the year are typically caught in May, prior to the spawn.
In fact, many anglers pursue snook and tarpon after nightfall during the full moon periods. The fish are much more active than during the day, much less boat shy, and there’s much less competition. Plus, if skies are clear, the light of the moon gives just enough illumination for easy fishing.
Pass crabs about 3 inches across the shell are usually the favorite bait after dark; the crabs “run” at nightfall, so they are the food of choice for the silver kings. The crabs appear to ride the outgoing tide on the nights around the full moon, perhaps in a spawning ritual of their own, and they often can be dipped up in the weedline rips that form in the larger passes as the tide ebbs.
There should be plenty of fish to entertain anglers in Saturday’s Tampa Tarpon Tournament, a fundraiser for the University of Tampa’s Marine Science Department. The top angler in each division of the all-release tournament – guide, amateur and fly – wins $1,000. Headquarters for the event is Bayside Marina off Tyson Avenue. Entry deadline is Thursday at the marina, and the entry fee is $200 per angler. For registration forms, visit www.Utarpon.org. Tournament director Mike Emmanuel can be reached at (813) 831-5757. UPCOMING EVENTS: Dennis O’Hearn, president of the Fishing Rights Alliance, presents a free update from the Gulf Council meeting in Biloxi, Miss., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Tightlines Tackle, 6924 N. Armenia Ave., Tampa. O’Hearn and the FRA have called on the council to reject a proposal that would reduce grouper and snapper bag limits for recreational anglers. O’Hearn also will give a presentation on his Offshore Hunter computer program, designed to assist anglers locating and cataloging offshore fishing spots. For more information, call (813) 932-4721. … The Randy Keys Kingfish Classic, postponed earlier because of weather, will be fished Saturday out of Billy Moore’s Restaurant in Tierra Verde. A captain’s meeting is Friday at 6 p.m. The entry fee is $100. The Spring Big Mac Spanish mackerel tournament also is Saturday, out of the same location. The entry fee is $50. Call (727) 542-3900
Tampa Tribune – Tampa,FL,USA