November is a Great Month to Fish!

Finally, cooler weather has moved into the Tampa Bay area and the water temperatures have dropped to the upper 60’s and this has had a huge impact on the concentrations of fish. When the water cools, fish seek warmth. There are areas in the upper Tampa Bay regions that hold hundreds of snook due to the water depth and a muddy bottom that builds heat during the day and retains it overnight. Not only do these snook congregate in astounding numbers, they’re extremely hungry.

Once I set up to catch these fish, I chum heavily with live bait to activate the bite. After the snook begin to feed, which is usually only a matter of minutes, I start baiting hooks. Then it’s on like Donkey Kong! Most times, a snook will then take your bait as soon as it hits the water. Even beginner fly anglers can get in on the action, because it’s literally like shooting fish in a barrel.

The good news is, this kind of non-stop snook catching last through the rest of fall and all winter long. It’s commonplace for clients to catch 50 or more snook an outing. During the winter of 2015, four separate charters caught and released over 100 snook. Your party could be next!

Not only are the snook huddling up, so are the redfish and trout. Occasionally, I’ll catch trout and some redfish in my snook spots, but usually I move to areas with deeper water. The deeper the water, the warmer. I still chum to get the action going, before baiting the hooks for solid hook-ups.

Cooler weather has also ushered in the king mackerel, aka kings or kingfish. Kingfish are making their annual migration run along our coast as they head back to the Florida Keys for the winter.

My favorite method for catching kingfish is slow trolling with live bait, which usually produces larger fish and is by far the most exciting. Many times, you get to watch the fish take the bait. Other times, a kingfish might skyrocket on a bait trolled in the prop wash.

Many times, I get too busy to write fishing reports as often as I would 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.

Redfish Charter Fishing Tampa

Irma hit Florida Hard

Irma hit Florida hard, but she can’t keep us down!

Redfish Charter Fishing Tampa

Hues of red begin to color the water during the fall as schools of redfish crisscross many of the grass flats in Tampa Bay

Many Floridians suffered substantial damage and lost income during the passing of Hurricane Irma. Among those the hardest hit were full-time fishing guides in south Florida and the Keys. For some, it may take years to recover and this comes just as tourist usually began visit some of these areas.

With this I mind, now more than ever, when hiring a fishing guide, make sure they are a full-time guide. Over the past few years, there’s been an influx fishing charter booking agencies and part-timers that are frankly, devaluing the industry. I can guarantee you, full-timers like me are going to work harder for your hard-earned money and provide a superior fishing experience.

I’ve made my living as a full-time professional fishing guide for over 20 years. My business success has largely been due to referrals and repeat clientele. That only happens by offering excellent customer service and a great time on the water.

Fortunately, I only had to cancel or reschedule some trips due to Irma, so I’ll be fine. Charter captains further south, not so much. So, if you’re heading south to do some fishing in the next six months or so, hire a full-time guide. His or her livelihood depends on it.

Now, how about a fishing update!

Hues of red begin to color the water during the fall as schools of redfish crisscross many of the grass flats in Tampa Bay. The optimum time to catch these big bull reds is around a good high tide with a strong incoming or outgoing flow. I like to find a secluded spot along the mangroves or an oyster bed and get busy chumming. I chum heavily with live scaled sardines using a chum bait to get the redfish balled up by the boat and many times, catch fish for hours on end.

Shorter days and cooler nights have the water temperatures dropping into the middle to upper 70’s. This change in the season really tantalizes a snook’s appetite. Mangrove shoreline points, oyster beds and creek or river entrances are all holding fish.

I’m preparing kingfish rigs right now. Next mouth, I expect to find king mackerel just offshore as they begin in make their fall migration south to the keys. The annual fall run traditionally begins around Columbus Day.

Who knows, at the rate things are going politically, next fall the kingfish may arrive around Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

Many times, I get too busy to write fishing reports as often as I would like. So, if you’re interested in seeing my most recent post, please like me on Facebook to receive Afishionado updates. For charter reservations call Wade at 813-286-3474.



The Catching is Hot Right Now!

Tampa Bay Fishing Charters

Tampa Bay Redfish Charters

You may think the fishing is only good either early or late in the day during the summer. Not so! Tidal flow has everything to do with how good or bad the fishing will be on any given day, regardless of how hot it is outside. If a good tide coincides with a sunrise or sunset in the summer, all the better, because fish do feed more aggressively when the sun is at lower angles to the horizon.

When looking for a good summertime fish spot I always consider pinch points, deep water grass flats and passes where the tidal flow is at its fastest. Moving water tends to have a cooling effect, which attracts more fish to that area.

Should I find myself on the water during the mid-day when the wind dies down and the water is completely flat. I might run and gun to beat the heat!
This may be as simple as traveling a couple of miles to chase an incoming or outgoing tide at a different location. Or, if the tide is slack in your area and your waiting for it to turn, I sometimes just check out nearby channel markers, buoys or range markers for cobia or triple tail. The constant moving cools everyone off and increase our chances in locating some fish.

Mangrove snapper has been outstanding this month. Many rock piles, bridges and artificial reefs are loaded right now. With a 10-inch minimum and a five fish per person limit, it’s been easy to limit out, even when I have four to five anglers on board.

The catch and lease snook fishing is good also. Snook are still spawning and most of the bridges and mangrove points are stacked with snook.
If you like to catch and blacken redfish for dinner, the best tide to locate a school is around a high tide. This time of year, redfish like to have a lot of water over their backs as they move across the flats. I usually don’t even start looking for redfish until a 2.0 incoming tide or higher. Most days, the redfish we catch are too large to keep, but a few manage to make the 18/27-inch slot.

Many times, I get too busy to write fishing reports as often as I would like. So, if you’re interested in seeing my most recent post, please like me on Facebook to receive Afishionado updates. For charter reservations call Wade at 813-286-3474.


Tampa Bay Summertime Fishing is HOT!

The mangrove snapper fishing is outstanding right now. Many of the Tampa Bay area rock piles, bridges and artificial reefs are loaded. With a 10-inch minimum and a five fish per person limit, it’s been easy for me to limit out, even when I have four to five anglers on board. While snapper fishing, we’re also catching large Spanish mackerel, trout, jack crevalle, ladyfish, bluefish and the occasional shark, cobia or tarpon.

The catch and lease snook fishing will continue to be brisk for the next six weeks. Snook are still spawning and most of the passes along our coast and bay bridges are stacked with snook. Snook season opens back up for harvest on September 1.

If you like blackened redfish, the best tide to locate a school is around a high tide. This time of year, redfish like to have a lot of water over their backs as they move across the flats. I usually don’t even start looking for redfish until a 2.0 incoming tide or higher. Catching redfish over 30 inches is common this time of year.

Many times, I get too busy to write reports as often as I would like. So, if you’re interested in my recent post, please like me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter to receive real-time Afishionado updates. For charter reservations call Wade at 813-286-3474.

Snook Fishing Tampa Bay

Snook Are in Full Spawn

The key to success with hooking up with a monster Tampa Bay snook is to fish during a strong tidal flow and have the right bait. Grunts, pinfish and large scaled sardines are prime snook baits. It’s also important to present the bait properly. Always cast up tide and let the bait flow back to the fish while keeping the bail on the real open. Once your bait is picked up and line starts rushing off the spool, close the bail with your hand and lift your rod tip for a solid hook set.

Mangrove snapper spawn this month also, so it’s a good time to go snapper fishing. Snapper fishing is easy. Just go load up your live-well full of bait and head to a rock pile, artificial reef or bridge and start chumming.

I like to cut up my own fresh chum from the live-well, but a frozen chum-block hanging off the stern will work. I good tidal flow works best for snapper fish as well, because it creates a flow of fish particles to pull the fish off the structure you’re fishing on.

As far as snapper bait. I like to use the smallest scaled sardine in the live-well. Better yet, if you have any 2-inch pinfish, use them. Snapper love them and they’re hearty on the hook.

There are two ways you can fish your snapper bait. Let it drop back with the chum slick while let out line or cast it out and let it swim in the current with the bail closed. The biggest thing about getting a hook up, is to be patient. Snapper will peck at the bait two, maybe three times before it inhales it, so don’t try to set the hook too soon!

Locating schooling redfish lately has been hit or miss, but I think that’s mainly due to the huge influx of freshwater that our area received during the last two weeks. Thankfully, we’re finally getting back to a normal pattern of afternoon storms. This should allow the waters to clear up and increase the odds for locating schools of redfish.

When I’m out fishing and the winds lay down in the middle of the day and the temperatures start to rise, I often crank up the motor and go search for triple tail or cobia.

Triple tail love to hang out around crab trap buoys and will eat just about anything you toss at them. They will also trail along with floating debris. I saw a bright orange object last summer that looked like a fish marker, so I went and checked it out. It turns out, it was a floating bait net with a large triple tail in it. My client cast a scaled sardine at it and the fish rushed out of the net and devoured the bait. So always be on the outlook.

Cobia on the other hand, like to hang around larger structure. Large buoys, range markers or navigation signs, any of these obstacles can attract cobia. Cobia like to shadow large stingrays that are cursing the grass flats too, so keep an eye out.

Now’s The Time to Catch Big fish!

Catching Big Fish in Tampa Bay with Captain Wade Osborne

First, Tarpon:

Tarpon are on the move and for the most part, an early day’s start is preferred.   Here are a few of the advantages to being the first on the water.

Along the beaches, there will be less boat traffic in the morning and the ability to see the tarpon breaking the surface from a distance is enhanced as the rising sun glistens off their silver backs.

The best areas to set up to locate tarpon are just outside one of the many passes from St. Petersburg to Anna Maria Island.    

After spotting tarpon in open water, position the boat in their line of travel from a distance and wait for them to approach you. Do not chase the fish! Once you’re in position, cast your bait out in front of the fish so it has time to enter the strike zone as the tarpon approach.  If your first bait offering is ignored, let the fish pass by the boat at least 50 yards before starting the motor to circle around for another try.  Putting too much pressure on any one fish will shut the action down completely. 

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is another hot spot to hook up with the silver king.  Some areas of the bridge are better than others, so stake them out early.  Once anchored, I like to start chumming with cut bait.  While chumming, mix it up.  I like to toss out crushed live baits, with my fresh cut bait.  The only drawback from using cut bait is it attracts mackerel and sharks, so be prepared to re-rig often.  But the advantages of more tarpon hookups and the occasional cobia are worth it.

Second, snook:

Snook begin their annual spawn this month, so catch-and-release fishing will be red hot right through August.  Catching snook measuring over 30 inches is common place this time of year, so beef up your tackle and use at least 40 lb. fluorocarbon leader.  Spawning snook are also most aggressively feeding during a strong tidal flow so plan your trip accordingly.

Third, Redfish:

The redfish have been schooling on many of the grass flats in St. Petersburg and upper Tampa Bay.  One key to success is to arrive a few hours before high tide.  Oyster beds, mangrove shorelines and grass flats peppered with sandy spots are the best places to target redfish. 

Scaled sardines, pinfish or fresh cut bait are all excellent choices for luring redfish to the hook.  Ladyfish, mullet, threadfins, sardines and pinfish all make for great cut bait.  Whichever you decide to use, broadcast some of the same chunks around the boat to draw in redfish. 

Fourth, Cobia:

Cobia will be invading the flats this month also.  I always keep two cobia rigs on the boat.  One already rigged with an artificial eel and the other setup for live bait.  Some of my favorite cobia baits are pinfish, threadfins, large scaled sardines and jumbo shrimp.  When making a cast to a cobia always lead the fish, don’t drop the bait on its head unless you want to watch it swim away, fast.

If you should spot a large southern stingray on the flats look closely, because a cobia could be nearby.

Many times, I get too busy to write reports as often as I would like, so if you’re interested in what I’ve caught lately, like me on Facebook for my most recent updates. 

Kingfish Fishing

The Kings of Spring

Kingfish Fishing

Kingfish Fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

Here on the Suncoast, the return of the king mackerel migration definitely marks the beginning of spring. Hordes of ravenous kingfish will be passing through our area for at least another four weeks devouring every baitfish in sight. So, do what I like to do, go slow troll!

As I stated last month, you can simply run off shore to some hard bottom, start chumming and wait for kingfish to come to your chum slick or you can slow-troll live bait and increase your odds at catching a true smoker. Slow-trolling live bait also allows you to cover a larger area and encounter more fish.

Another king this month is snook. April is the last month of harvest for this awesome table fare until snook season reopens in September. This month snook will be feeding like savages in anticipation of the upcoming spawning season, which runs May-July.

Early this month I’ll still be targeting snook in the back bays and mangroves, but as May approaches snook will be moving into deeper water around bridges and into many of our coastline passes.

Redfish are also a king in the spring. Large schools of redfish started showing up on many of our grass flats back in February due to the above average temperatures we’ve been experiencing. Once a school is located, anchor your boat and start live bait chumming with scaled sardines like a maniac. This will keep the school near you and feeding for hours on end. Then cast a hooked sardine free-lined or suspended under a cork into the fray for a solid hookup.

The fourth king of spring for April is the “Brown Bomber,” cobia. I like to refer to cobia as the “pork chop of the sea.” When steaked out and grilled, I think cobia resembles the firmness and texture of perfectly grilled premium pork chop. Delicious!

Cobia can be spotted on many of the grass flats this month trailing large southern stingrays. So, when you’re out searching for bait or redfish, keep an eye out and be prepared. I always keep cobia rods at the ready, because should you spot a cobia, time is of the essence. Have your bait at the ready and cast way in front of the stingray, so you don’t spook it. If you cast too closely and blow out the stingray, game over, say “bye, bye cobia.”

Rounding out the kings of spring is the Silver King.

Tarpon typically show up around the Skyway Bridge in early April, weather permitting, and I don’t see this month being an exception. The water temperature is already higher than normal, thankfully to climate change. Can I get a “hallelujah?”

Early on, anchoring close to the bridge and creating a fresh cut-bait chum slick while dropping back a big fat piece of cut-bait on a hook works best. Just watch out for the dolphins, because they will take the bait right off your hook. So, when they move in, move out and go to another spot along the bridge and start all over.

Come May and June, tarpon will be hailed as king!

Smoking Springtime Fishing is Here!

Even though spring doesn’t officially start until March 20 this year, I’m really looking forward to it. This winter, the fishing was the most inconsistent that I’ve ever experienced. Cold fronts were few and far between and when we did get one, temperatures headed back north of 70 degrees the following day. This inconsistency prevented fish from settling into their normal winter patterns. That being said, there were a good number of days when sea-trout catches were outstanding. The next day, not so much.

The redfish bite was about the same, but with a slightly different twist. Some days, most of the redfish landed were in the mid to upper slot-size of 27-inches. Other days, most were under 18-inches. Still fun to catch, but a little disappointing if you were planning on a blackened redfish dinner. Fortunately, of late, schools of large redfish are once again prowling the grass flats.

Traditionally, St. Patrick’s Day marks the start of the annual kingfish migration run along the Pinellas County coast. Kingfish can be caught very close to shore with very little effort. Just run offshore about a mile or so and locate hard bottom using your sonar or by searching out crab traps. Crab fisherman, always drop their traps on hard bottom, because that’s where the crabs are. Go figure! Once you locate a decent spot, drop anchor, start a chum slick and put out some live-bait on flat lines.

Chumming for kingfish and waiting for them to come to you is productive, but luring the fish with a trolled bait is more proactive. Slow-trolling live bait also eliminates the possibility of catching non-targeted species like sharks. I always prefer to head offshore with some bait in the live-well, but you can catch it once you reach your destination with a Sabiki rig.

Kingfish are great table fare, if you stick to the smaller ones, because they’re common carriers of high levels of mercury. The FDA recommends eating fish under 30-inches to limit your mercury intake.

Personally, I like to smoke kingfish on my Big Green Egg and then make fish dip. If you’ve never done it, just Google smoked kingfish dip and you’ll find plenty of recipes.

The Large Sea-Trout Are Active

Lately, my clients have been catching plenty of large sea-trout.  Some days, most are at or over the 20-inch maximum slot-size, which is only one out of a four fish per person limit.  Sea-trout are mostly hanging out in deeper water.

The redfish have remained pretty active, although this time of year it’s not uncommon to catch a lot of fish just under the 18-inch slot-size, what we call “Rat Reds.”  Even in the winter, the key to success is to chum with live-bait.

One thing I notice about fisherman, most move around too much.  I understand the need to move to another spot if you’re not catching fish, but sometimes it takes 15 minutes or so for things to happen.  I like to anchor up on a spot, chum and wait awhile for the fish to get active if I know fish are there.  Many times, once one fish begins to feed, others follow suit.

Another thing about sitting tight and waiting for things to happen:  If you’re in a spot with a good tidal flow, fish will constantly be passing through your area.

Be patient my friend.  It is a virtue, after all!

Pictured:  Kory, Andrea and Ky finish up their charter with a big sea-trout rally.

January is an Outstanding Time to Fish!

When water temperatures drop into the low 60’s, fish go deep or to heat.  Let me explain what I mean.

Cold water slows the metabolism of a fish way down.  They move slower, don’t travel long distances or feed as much.  What they like to do, is drop off into deeper water for warmth.  Residential canals lined with docks are great areas to target winter fish.  Deep-water back bays and coves lined with mangrove and oyster bed shorelines are another.  These areas usually have muddy bottoms which warm up during the day and retain heat during the night.  If you should fish these areas early in the morning and it’s slow, give it some time.  As the sun rises and the water warms, the fish become a little more active and are likely to eat.

One of the biggest considerations this time of year, (for me anyway), is what to use for bait.  I always prefer to fish with live-bait.  Majority of the time it will be scaled sardines, but when we’ve had an extended period of extremely cold weather, catching bait can be difficult.  When that’s the case, I make a quick stop at the tackle shop to buy some regular sized shrimp.  Buying larger shrimp is a big waste of money, so don’t do it.

You won’t catch as many snook with shrimp as would with scaled sardines, but you’ll catch a few.  However, during the winter, shrimp are just as effective, if not a better bait choice for catching redfish and trout.  Another bonus fish you’ll catch with shrimp is sheepshead.  You definitely won’t be catching any sheepshead with sardines.

Most Floridians hate cold weather, but I love it!  I’ve had some of the most productive charters of my career during the winter.  There’s also less boat traffic and competition for the best fishing spots.  If you’re one of those people who like to sleep in on a cold winter’s morning, do so, just head out in the afternoon.  There are days when I don’t even start my charters until noon to take advantage of the tide or to let the water warm up a bit.  Despite the up and down temperatures, the fishing is steady.   Most days we’re catching the main three species to complete an inshore slam of snook, redfish and trout.

In all reality, there’s not much Mother Nature can throw our way this time of year that would disrupt the great fishery we have in Tampa Bay.

Pictured: Gerry Stosek from Bethesda, Maryland with a nice winter snook.