It’s March Madness on the Grass Flats!

With spring just right around the corner, March is shaping up to be an excellent time to fish.

Baitfish will be arriving on the grass flats by mid-month. Along with this influx of baitfish, snook, redfish and sea trout will be moving out of the back country and their deep winter haunts to feed until winter rolls around again.
Usually, March ushers in the harvest of snook, but due the moratorium on snook, redfish and sea trout, there’s little you can take home to eat. However, the catch and release fishing will the outstanding.

Let’s say, you couldn’t care less about releasing fish, and you gotta eat!
Sheepshead are still spawning and are relatively easy to catch if you’re fishing for them in the all the right places. I’m finding sheepshead in deep sandy holes on the grass flats, around oyster beds, bridge pilings, and artificial reefs. Baits of choice for these bandits, are shrimp, fiddler crabs, and believe it or not, small pieces of barnacle.

Mangrove snappers have been biting well all winter long and will just become more active as the water warms. When fishing for sheepshead around bridge pilings and artificial reefs, we start catching snapper also. Snapper love to feed on shrimp, crabs and scaled sardines.

When fishing for both species, I use a 1/0 hook and as little weight as necessary to suspend the bait into the strike zone. I always start a chum slick to get the action going. I like to anchor up tide and let particles of ground up baitfish draw whatever quarry I’m after, right to the boat.

Lastly, on table fare: By mid to late March, I’ll be running a short distance offshore to catch king mackerel. Their spring migration usually kicks off around St. Patrick’s Day and last four to six weeks, depending how along the water temperature stays in their comfort range. Along with the king mackerel, there will be schools of Spanish mackerel mix in.

Some people want to keep fish, and I get it! Fortunately, most of my clients just enjoy catching fish. Otherwise with all the closures, I’d be living in a van, down by the river.

My clients are catching plenty of snook right now. Alongside the snook, some of the largest trout most people have ever caught in their life are being released. I haven’t been targeting redfish much lately, but I will be this month as large schools begin to invade the grass flats.

The fly fishing is extremely good right now for snook and sea trout. If you’re not a purist and are willing to cast a fly once I have the fish chummed up with live bait, you won’t be disappointed. It’s as easy as matching the hatch. A cave man can do it!

Stay fishy my friends.

Pictured: Longtime client Brennan Porter and his now fiancee, Rachel. Brennan proposed later that day!

Tampa Bay Fishing Guide

The Fishing is Excellent!

The big debate over eastern standard time vs daylight savings time has absolutely no effect on fish. They know days are getting shorter and even, as early as last month, snook were already moving into their winter haunts. Now with major cold fronts passing through, look for fish migration to intensify.

It’s time to change my strategy. When looking for fish I concentrate on deep water holes and areas that are protected from the wind. As winter approaches, these areas will fill up with fish. As the mercury drops the fishing only gets better.

My main concern this time of year is always where to catch bait. Cold fronts push baitfish of the grass flats and into deeper water. Not only that, they don’t always stay in the same place. If the bay waters are calm, I’ll often run all the way to the Skyway Fishing Pier to catch bait. I can practically always count on bait being there except on the worst of weather days.

When catching bait gets tough, I’ll stop at Gandy Bait and Tackle and buy some shrimp. Most people always buy select shrimp. Personally, I think that’s not only a waste of money, but it also not the best choice for catching fish. My go-to shrimp size is medium. Fish take them more readerly and they also make for good chumming. That’s right, when I’m using shrimp for bait, I’m chumming as if I’m fishing with scalded sardines. So, I buy plenty of shrimp. If I’m running a four-hour fishing charter, I’ll buy a minimum of 10 dozen.

Fly fishing is a great option when fishing during cooler months. Snook can be caught easily on a fly at this time and the best part is you don’t need to be an avid fly caster like Ed who is featured in the photo. A 20-foot cast is all that’s needed. Many fly anglers catch 10 or more snook an outing with a little persistence.

So, in closing don’t assume the fishing isn’t good this time of year. Give me a call and I’ll show you otherwise!

Usually, I get too busy to write fishing reports as often as I’d like, so, if you’re interested in seeing my most recent post, please like my, Facebook Page to receive updates. For charter reservations call/text Wade at 813-286-3474.

A Look Ahead in Tampa Bay

September will be here in a couple of weeks, but don’t plan on keeping any snook for dinner.

Not since the big 2010 winter snook kill have we had a harvest closure on the west coast. Estimates put the total number of snook deaths at one million, statewide due to that year’s freeze. Who knows how many died during last years red tide, but it was enough that the FWC decided to shut down the harvesting of snook until May 30, 2020. However, don’t expect to keep any next May either, because snook are always closed to harvest May – August for their spawning season. If we’re lucky, we may be able to have a grilled snook next September, but I won’t count on it.

Besides the snook closure, if you throw in fact you can’t keep any redfish or trout too, what’s an angler to do? Catch and release, that’s what!
For table fare, Spanish mackerel are plentiful along the intracoastal, off the beaches and in Tampa Bay. Last month, the mackerel fishing was outstanding and that should continue through October.

The key to getting the mackerel action going is to establish a chum slick. To help prevent cutoffs, it’s a good idea to use at least a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader and a 1/0 long shank hook. Another important tip is to use a light drag setting on your reel. If your drag is set to tight, many times a mackerel will pull the hook or snap it off with a quick bite.

You’re allowed to keep 15 Spanish mackerel per person, with a minimum fork length of 12 inches. Two things: I don’t believe anyone needs to keep 15 and a 12-inch fish is hardly worth fileting. Besides that, if you freeze them, they turn into mush once thawed. If you must freeze your mackerel, do what I do, smoke them first. That helps preserve the filet for ready-to- eat or to make smoked fish dip.

The mangrove snapper bite has been awesome and continues to get better year after year.

I’m catching snapper while cast-netting bait, first thing in the morning. They’re beating snook to the bait while I’m flats fishing. I’m catching them along jetties, on artificial reefs and around bridge pilings. They’re even being caught along the mangrove shorelines. I guess they’re not called mangrove snapper for nothing.

Tarpon and cobia are still around and even thought I don’t target them much now, I do get hook-ups while mackerel and snapper fishing.

The redfish and snook fishing has been a little inconsistent, but I attribute that to the excessive amount of runoff due to all the rain we’ve been having and the fact that the water temperature has been hovering between 85-90 degrees.

Frankly, I have never been that excited about the September return to snook harvest anyway, because it’s still too hot. The time to get amped up about inshore fishing is in October when it finally starts to cool down.

Usually, I get too busy to write fishing reports as often as I’d like, so, if you’re interested in seeing my most recent post, please like my, Facebook Page to receive updates. For charter reservations call/text Wade at 813-286-3474.

It’s Whats For Dinner!

The Spanish mackerel fishing is excellent right now, and they’re good table fare. The key to having tasty mackerel fillets is to ice the fish down the second you bring them on the boat. Some people swear you should bleed them also. I’ve done it, and I don’t think it made a difference in taste. It did make a bloody mess in the cooler, however. You can bake it, fry it, grill it or my favorite, smoke it!

Another tasty inshore fish you can rely on during the summer months are mangrove snapper. Their spawning season runs from June through September. During this time, they’re the most aggressive and easiest to catch. I like to target mangrove snapper around bridge pilings, rock piles, artificial reefs and, believe it or not, mangrove shorelines adjacent to deeper water. They’re not called mangrove snapper for nothing!

I like to whip them into a feeding frenzy, by anchoring my boat up-tide of my fishing spot and starting a fresh cut-bait chum slick. Some anglers use frozen chum blocks sold at tackle shops but cutting it up yourself is better. Most people are lazy!

Once I have a good chum slick established, the snapper will literally be swimming to the boat. Then it’s just a matter of drifting a bait back within the slick to get a solid hookup. Best baits: Small white bait, small pinfish or just a chunk of cut bait.

Tampa Bay redfish are feeding heavily around oyster beds during high tides. Once water is covering previously exposed oysters, redfish like to move in and pick off any crustaceans that are accessible. Most times, if you catch one redfish, more are around. Locate a school of fish and you can catch them for hours on end. Many of the same areas I’m catching redfish are loaded with quality snook also and catching 20-40 an outing is the norm.

Snook are scattered all over the flats making it possible to catch them just about anywhere. It’s also spawning season for snook, so the large breeders are staged up and easier to catch.

Redfish and snook are catch and release only right now, but for pure sport, the actioning can’t be beat!

Usually, I get too busy to write fishing reports as often as I’d like, so, if you’re interested in seeing my most recent post, please like my, Facebook Page to receive updates. For charter reservations call/text Wade at 813-286-3474.

It’s Time to Fish!

12th Annual Casting For Kids Fishing Tournament

The northern tarpon migration, which coincides with their pre-spawn ritual, brings thousands upon thousands of tarpon to our area is in full swing. This gives anglers a shot at some of the best Tarpon fishing in the world during May and June.

There are many techniques used to hook one of these beasts, but two of the most productive are: 1) anchoring and chumming in the passes; and 2) cruising the shoreline and tossing baits while sight casting. Either method will get the job done, but you must be persistent and have patience.
Tarpon are some of the most rewarding or disappointing fish to pursue. There are days when you’ll see thousands of fish and you’ll never get a bite. Other days, you may not see as many, but the hook-up ratio is outstanding. Occasionally, you may want to give up, but If you keep at it, you will have success.

The redfish and snook fishing doesn’t get much better than it is right now. On a strong incoming tidal flow, redfish and snook are being caught side by side in places where oyster beds and mangroves meet.

I’m not talking about a few fish either. Many days, the non-stop action can last for hours when the conditions a right, you have a live-well full of bait and you chum continuously. Double, even triple hookups are common. Redfish and snook are catch-n-release only right now, but there are other inshore species to target for dinner.

Spanish mackerel are another fish worth targeting now also. They’re also good to eat, though some people may disagree. The key to having tasty mackerel fillets, when you get home, is to ice the fish down the second you bring them on the boat. Some people swear you should bleed them also. I’ve done it, and I don’t think it made a difference in taste. It did make a bloody mess in the cooler, however. You can bake it, frie it, grill it or my favorite, smoke it!

When mackerel fishing, I’m chumming non-stop so, other fish are drawn into the slick. Such as bluefish, ladyfish, jack crevalle and sometimes cobia even show up in the mix. It’s also a great time to put out a shark rig.

Another tasty inshore fish is the mangrove snapper. They’re moving towards their spawning season which runs from June through September and during the spawn is when they become the most aggressive and easiest to catch. I fish for mangrove snapper around bridge pilings, rock piles, artificial reefs and believe it or not mangrove shorelines adjacent to deep water. They’re not called mangrove snapper for nothing!

Pompano are great table fair, but at times, difficult to locate. They like to hang around bridge pilings and run the swash channels along the beaches near passes. They also like to cruise along the edges of grass flats while looking for a stray shrimp or crab.

Many times, you can spot them skipping in your boat wake as you zoom by a flat. When this happens, spin your boat around immediately and work a pompano jig along the outside edge of the flat you just buzzed by.

There’re not many fish that taste better than pompano baked in parchment paper.

Usually, I get too busy to write fishing reports as often as I’d like, so, if you’re interested in seeing my most recent post, please like my, Facebook Page to receive updates. For charter reservations call/text Wade at 813-286-3474.

April Fishing at its Best!

Corey displays one of the 30-plus inch redfish he caught, that are schooling on the flats.

Finally, the Tampa Bay water temperature is in the 70’s to stay and it’s only going to increase from here on. Once the water temperature hits the fishes’ confront level, they become more active and in turn, very hungry.

The snook fishing has been ready good all year long in certain locations, but now they’re starting to spread out on the flats making it possible to catch them just about anywhere. Double, even triple hook-ups are common and catching 30 or more snook per outing is the norm.

The best news, recently, is the return of large redfish. Redfish prefer warmer waters and with the spike in temperature, my clients have been catching plenty of fish over 30-inches. Redfish are primarily schooling fish, so if you catch one, more than likely others are close by. Many times, these large redfish are being caught in some of the very same spots as the snook.

Spanish mackerel have returned to the bay also. Spanish mackerel are a blast to catch on light tackle, because they hit live bait hard and fast. Once hooked, they make long runs and because I use a light drag setting on the reels to prevent cut-offs, it takes awhile to bring them to the gaff.

The annual spring king mackerel migration is in full swing too. As king mackerel, aka kingfish, start following baitfish north to the panhandle, massive amounts of kingfish can be caught within a mile of the coastline. In fact, most tournament-winning fish this time of year are landed within a mile of shore or within the mouth of Tampa bay, this time of year.

Personally, I prefer to slow-troll live bait for kingfish, because you can use lighter tackle and my clients get to play the fish right up to the rod tip. Some charters like to drag spoons behind a fishing planner at higher speeds so they can cover more ground. Both methods work, but when using a planer, you must use heaver tackle and you only get to fight the fish up to the planer, then you have to handline the fish in the rest of the way to the boat.

This month tarpon will be making their presence known at the mouth of Tampa Bay and one of the best spots to encounter an early April tarpon is at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The trick to getting a solid hook-up is to anchor your boat on the up-tide side on the bridge and drift baits back under the bridge while establishing a constant flow of fresh cut bait chum.

The tarpon fishing really picks up during May and June, so plan accordingly!

Usually, I get too busy to write fishing reports as often as I’d like, so, if you’re interested in seeing my most recent post, please like my, Facebook Page to receive updates. For charter reservations call/text Wade at 813-286-3474.

Tampa Bay Charter Fishing

Tampa Bay Fish are Alive and Well!

Tampa Bay Charter Fishing

The Tampa Bay sheepshead spawn is in full swing!

As I take reservations for March and April, the number one question I’m asked is, what about the red tide? Last year’s red tide finally dissipated during the fall, so the white sandy beaches are back to normal and clear of dead fish. However, the inshore fishing along the coast is far from being normal.

All month the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has been releasing thousands of redfish in every coastal county from northern Pasco to Collier down south, in an attempt to replenish the stocks that were decimated during 2018’s red tide outbreak. Each release included 1,000 to 1,500 juvenile fish and 25 to 30 adult redfish in every county. That equals to about 8,200 to 14,400 redfish throughout. That being said, “don’t look for a positive impact for years to come.”

The coastal communities are still reeling (no pun intended) from the devastating loss of marine life. Guides and recreational anglers alike, are struggling to catch fish. A repeat client who fished with me again this month, fished with guide out of Matlacha in Lee County the day before and they only caught one trout in four hours. The next day with me, the action was non-stop in Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay is the key. The red tide outbreak never effected the inshore waters of Tampa Bay from about the Skyway Bridge north. I’ve been catching adult, slot-sized redfish all winter long. The inshore fishing will take years to recover along the coast. The only glimmer of hope of a normal coastal fishery this year, is the kingfish migration and the tarpon run. I’ve got my fingers crossed!

Now back to the bay fishing! Again, the fishing in Tampa Bay is outstanding, so if you’re thinking of staying at any of the hotels on Clearwater or St. Petersburg beach, it would be well worth the short drive to fish with me in Tampa.

Here’s what’s biting at the present:

The snook and redfish are very cooperative on some of the grass flats, while trout, sheepshead, pompano, jacks and ladyfish are keeping anglers busy in deeper water.

Considering we didn’t really have an extremely cold winter, I’m sure what fish survived the red tide along the coast will make it through the year and hopefully satisfy the endeavors of all in pursuit.

Fish on!

Usually, I get too busy to write fishing reports as often as I’d like, so, if you’re interested in seeing my most recent post, please like my, Facebook Page to receive updates. For charter reservations call/text Wade at 813-286-3474.

Shrimp Redfish Fishing

Shrimp is King

Shrimp Redfish Fishing

Mother and son duo display snook and redfish caught on shrimp.

If you read my reports on a consistent basis, you know I preach about how nothing out preforms scaled sardines, especially when it comes to snook fishing in the winter months. Well, this winter that hasn’t been the case, for me anyway.

I never thought, I would say this but lately, “Shrimp is king!”

I started noticing this in late December and can attribute it to one thing. Some of the areas I fish are frequented by fishing guides who bombard the area with scaled sardine live-bait chum. My theory is the snook have gotten their fill.

Yeah, I was still getting up early and going out to catch bait, but on the way to the boat ramp, I would stop at the bait shop and buy medium-sized shrimp for insurance. Boy, has it paid off! There were days when snook wouldn’t even touch a live-bait but pounced on a shrimp. Then I noticed when other guides are in the same area fishing with scaled sardines, we’re catching two to three fish to their one.

So, I’m hooked on shrimp for now and until baitfish become more prevalent, I’m done with throwing the cast net at the crack of dawn.
Other benefits of fishing with shrimp: getting a jump on other guides. Lately, I’ve been starting my charters at 7AM. This puts me in prime fishing areas a good hour before anyone else. Not only that, shrimp are the Sara Lee of baits: everything likes them!

The western shoreline of Tampa Bay that hugs St. Petersburg is a fish smorgasbord right now. I’m catching snook and redfish side by side. Trout have been a lot more difficult to pinpoint due to the fluctuation in water temperature, but when you locate one, you’ll catch many.

One species I don’t spend very much time on is sheepshead. However, the next couple of months is their spawning season, so now is an excellence time to target them. Residential dock pilings, bridge pilings and artificial reefs attract sheepshead. Sandy potholes on grass flats are also a good place to target sheepshead particularly during the spawn.

Shrimp and fiddler crabs are an excellent choice of bait for sheepshead. Another bait that sheepshead gurus tend to use are barnacles. If you’re fishing from a boat, take a shovel so you can scrape barnacles off the pilings as you fish. Scrape some into a bucket also and put a small piece on your hook for bait. That’s right, sheepshead love to eat barnacles.

As for solid hookups. It been said, the best way to catch sheepshead is to set the hook before you feel the bite!

One bonus to sheepshead fishing on artificial reefs right now is the abundance of mangrove snapper. To get both fish to become active start a chum slick. I like to chum with pieces of shrimp that I’ve frozen from previous trips. The cool thing is, you’re likely to go back and forth catching sheepshead one bite and mangrove snapper the next.

Usually, I get too busy to write fishing reports as often as I’d like, so, if you’re interested in seeing my most recent post, please like my, Facebook Page to receive updates. For charter reservations call/text Wade at 813-286-3474.

fall fishing

It’s finally beginning to feel like fall.

fall fishing

Feeling Like Fall

As we reach mid-October the water temperature begins to drop and soon most flats should be in the upper to mid-70’s. That’s when redfish and snook start to become more active. The redfish bite is outstanding all month. Every charter that I pursued redfish, has had success. Some days, I encounter mostly over-slot fish, but during most trips, slot-sized fish were being caught.

Some local fishing guides have been complaining about the lack of redfish all year. I haven’t seen it! The whining started in early spring, way before any inkling of red tide. Without a doubt, some years are better than others, it’s can be cyclical. Back in August, when the water temperature was 90-degrees on the flats, locating schools of fish was difficult at times, I must admit, but that’s because they were staying in deeper water.

I believe, most anglers get into a rut, especially fishing guides. They go to the same fishing spots every day and expect the same results. I have a client that now fishes with me, who said he fished with a guide that literally sat in one location the entire four-hour charter while repeatedly saying, the redfish will show up, but they never did.

Not me, brother! When I roll up on a spot, I start live-bait chumming before I even bait a hook. I want to see if there are fish present and willing to eat. Once a see a few fish hit a bait, I’ll bait hooks. Then after 15 to 20 minutes if nothing much is happening, I’m moving on. Redfish are always on the move. If they didn’t have fins and tails, I’d know where they were every second.

The snook fishing has began to pick up also and will accelerate as water temperatures drop even more. Just as with redfish, when I locate a school snook I live-bait chum the entire time I’m fishing, to keep the action going for hours on end.

With the presence of red tide all long the Pinellas coast, it’s hard to say what our fall migration king mackerel run will be like this year. Typically, most of the winning tournament fish are caught within a mile from shore. I’ve got a feeling the kings are going to stay well offshore and bypass our area all together. I hope I’m wrong, but there’s no baitfish for them to eat!

snook fishing

The Snook Harvest Season, Re-Opens Today.

snook fishing

Snook Harvest Season

With the abundance of red tide media coverage lately, you may think our fish along the Gulf Coast are dead, not so! Tampa Bay and, as of yet, Pinellas County have not experienced any massive fish kills and fishing is strong.

September 1 traditionally marks the opening of snook season along Florida’s gulf coast. However, due to the devastating effect of the prolonged “Karenia brevis” algae bloom in Southwest Florida, on August 30 the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued an executive order prohibiting the harvest of snook and redfish in Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee and Collier Counties.

If you want updates on the FWC Red Tide status, here’s an easy link. This map is updated weekly. Keep in mind, even though high concentrations of red tide are beginning to show up along Pinellas County, it’s located six to ten miles offshore. On top that, we’ve had a persistent easterly wind flow pattern for the last week that’s pushing it further out to sea.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, I want to come to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area and do a little fishing, but the beaches may be a mess. Don’t stay on the beach. This area has a lot more to offer than sand and piña coladas.

Downtown St. Petersburg is only a 10-minute drive to the beach but offers dining, arts, and sports. Central Avenue is bustling with restaurants, concert venues, bars and breweries. There’s the Dali Museum and you can even take in a Tampa Bay Rays game.

Tampa can keep you more entertained, but things are scattered about the city. Tampa boast world- renowned restaurants like Burn’s Steakhouse and the Columbia Restaurant. Breweries abound, with Cigar City Brewing being at the top of the heap. Tampa has a wonderful River Walk with restaurants and museums. If you’re into theme parks, check out Busch Gardens and if you’re here during the weekend, you may be able to catch a Tampa Bay Buccaneers football game. Ybor City’s, Seventh Avenue is loaded with restaurants, concert venues, bars, shops and art.

Although, not my typical fishing report, a felt compelled to get this Chamber of Commerce message out that there’s plenty to do after a day of fishing, should you make the trip.

September fishing in Tampa Bay is outstanding.

Usually, I get too busy to write fishing reports as often as I’d like, so, if you’re interested in seeing my most recent post, please like my, Facebook Page to receive updates. For charter reservations call/text Wade at 813-286-3474.