Florida Fish Report
HM Fishing Report 10-6-23
by Hubbard's Marina Staff
Mackerel are back in the area in good numbers. We are seeing quite a few around the bay and local fishing piers. However, we are seeing some around the jetties and along our beaches. There’s tons of bait around more and more moving out along the beach and in the passes and with them come plenty of concentrations of mackerel. However, if its in the bay or around the passes we are often seeing jack crevalle mixed in the bait schools often too. Once out on the beaches sometimes blue runners or bonita will be around. Great time to chase the mackerel and get on active schools of fun to catch fish right now as our fall run heats up with cooling waters. This should really hit its peak around the next few weeks as we get to that next full moon we should see the peak of mackerel and more big kings show up too with that moon phase.
Redfish action is also at it’s peak right now as we hit that time of year where they are more congregated, aggressive and moving around the flats, oyster bars, and mangrove islands. We are even seeing some in schools moving around the passes and beaches too! They should continue like this until we get some big fronts that will finally push the schools out to spawn near shore. That’s when we run into them moving near shore while fishing the 5 or 10 hour trips or on our near shore private fishing charters. While in the bay right now, look for schools at mid to low tide at the edges of the flats, oyster bars, or moving around the mangrove islands. At mid to higher tides the schools often spread out and get much more difficult to find as they can move up into the mangroves and really get more tricky.
Snook are on the move too and are nearly fully moved back into the back bay waters. We still have some around the pass at the early morning hours and during the day, but the numbers have dwindled exponentially. They are going to be most active and prolific as you move away from the passes and work towards those flats back in the bays where water is warmer and more shallow. For example, around Johns pass around the bay pines VA area and the bridge moving back to the KOA area becomes a much better area this time of year as snook from the pass retreat back to these areas.
Trout action is going well right now around the area and we are seeing some active trout moving a bit more shallow. Around 3-5ft is more common for the trout and they are still looking pretty large overall. They are really keyed into the soft plastics and live white bait in the back bay area but around the passe live shrimp still working well.
Mangrove snapper are still pretty prolific around local structures despite it being the time of year they start to move back like the snook. However, it seems we have some good mangrove snapper action around the area persisting despite the changing of the time of year. They are still looking for small pieces of shrimp or white bait, but the bigger ones will take whole baits too.
Sheepshead are trying to push out the mangrove snapper from the hard structures of the area. We are seeing more and more of these guys around the docks, pier, bridge and jetties and that should only increase with the days shortening and cold fronts starting to roll. They love small pieces of shrimp, fiddler crabs and barnacles and we are expecting more and more to show up each day.
Triple tail action is heating up as we move into stone crab season. There will be more and more stone crab traps set out as we move into that season and that will bring with it more and more buoys and trap markers. These create more areas for the triple tail to hide and ambush passing baits.
Late season tarpon still persist around the passes, bridges and beaches. We have seen some nice ones caught lately from the beaches while shark fishing at night. Also a handful caught around the bridge at night too. Apparently around the skyway still plenty of action throughout the day and night!
**REMEMBER, please help spread the word and knowledge on what to do if you hook or entangle a bird. NEVER CUT THE LINE, stay calm and reel in the bird and get all your line back and dehook them and release. Never leave any line in the water, if you accidentally hook a dock make sure to break the line off at the hook never cut your line. Seabirds in the area are more and more often showing up with line hanging off them and we are in danger of losing access to fishing areas due to this. While anytime a bird is in danger or having issues is concerning too, but a wave of support of closing areas to fishing due to negative bird interactions is extremely concerning to an already dwindling number of areas you can fish around Tampa Bay from a shoreline, dock, bridge or pier! Check out the NEW podcast we did with salt strong on this issue – https://www.saltstrong.com/articles/shutting-down-fishing-at-busy-pier/ **
Mackerel are back in town in a big way. This means we have and added bonus to our 5 hour half day fishing trips this time of year and sometimes even the tne hour. We will get the opportunity to catch some of these fish while trolling on the way out and back and often run into them while dropping down or reeling up from the bottom as well. They are super concentrated around the near shore bait piles and structures from big ledges to artificial reefs and along the mouths of local channels and passes. Great time to get out with a bucket or two of chum, plenty of white bait dead and alive and start heavy chumming and let the cloud of mackerel come to you skyrocketing all over the place and putting on a show. You can also catch plenty while trolling around the near shore waters right now with a number 1 or 2 planner and about 15-20ft of 40-60lb mono between the back of the planner and a 4-6 inch drone spoon or squid spoon. We like to use a snap swivel on the spoon and the back of the planner to allow plenty of movement and flash so that you can attract more mackerel more quickly.
Kingfish wont be too far behind the mackerel and we have already got reports of some smaller kingfish being caught. That means the big girls are not far behind and they typically follow the moon phases so around 2-3 weeks on the next full moon we should have good numbers of both kingfish and mackerel around the area.
Hogfish action is going well around the area and we should only see this continue and improve as we move into the cooler months. It’s a great time to get out on our 10 hour all day and target the hogfish using live shrimp and lighter tackle. They are typically caught using a ball jig, knocker rig or jig head. However, on our trips we use those Roggies rigs banana jigs or the knocker rigs most commonly. Typically around 1-2 oz with around 3-4ot hooks is the go too with around 30lb floro leader.
Lane snapper are super common and pretty good sized near shore right now and were getting them pretty well while targeting the hogfish, but we can get them nearly all the time when using squid and small chunks of threadfin. However, they love the shrimp and are a great bycatch while targeting the hogfish near shore.
Mangrove snapper like the lanes are a very welcomed bycatch when targeting the hogfish and we are seeing a pretty decent number in good size. However, the lanes are much more frequent and less leadershy and smart.
Gag grouper is unfortunately going to close at 12:01am on October 19th, but that gives us through end of day oct 18th to get them while we can! We are doing well on them out deep aboard our 12 hour extreme and 39 hour trips. It’s a great time to go deep and try to get your gag grouper on a private charter or these party boat options with us. Gags are biting well on big dead baits and also the big live baits too. Its super frustrating to hear they early closure announced so suddenly without warning and based on projections and little information that was based on previous years data. Essentially, the NMFS is in my opinion, being super cautious to try and avoid any quota being met or exceed. Remember, we are those pesky AMs or accountability measures in place for this fishery thanks to the 2014 MSA reauth or magnuson stevens act reauthorization. Those AMs will cause us to have a ‘payback’ if the rec quota is met or exceeded. We want the quota to fall in below our ACT or allowable catch target so that next year we will get a more lengthy season with increased access. IF the fishery closes on the 19th at 12:01am and its discovered we met or exceeded our quota then next year it will mean an even shorter season with the accountability measure and the shortening to stop any overage too. If we just barely get close to it, then we will likely see a similar amount of days next year. If they screwed us and ended up closing way to early and being to cautious in the ‘projections’ then next year we would see a longer season duration likely. Essentially, its going to be extremely telling to see where the final landings end up and then we will know next year better what our season will reflect. Remember, ‘final’ rec landings wont be available until spring 2024 so by late spring early summer next year they will be able to give us a solid season project for gags 2024 opening sept first and closing… who knows?
Red grouper a lot of people are confused about, they don’t have a season and they are only closed due to a quota closure. So that means starting jan 1st as soon as we start 2024 that fishery will re open and we will be able to keep the red grouper again until their quota is projected to be met. However, for 2024 we should have some more quota available if we didn’t overrun this year that will really allow catch levels to bump up and might help us to get a few more months at least more weeks in 2024. We should know more on this subject when wave four MRIP data is available here shortly by end of October.
Triggerfish are open and remaining open for now, but once wave four MRIP data comes out if there’s a spike in landings we could see a closure due to quota projected to be met. However, if things are steady likely we will see triggerfish stay open through 2023. They are coming up on our deepwater stuff aboard the 39 hour, 44 hour and 12 hour extreme trips in large enough sizes to keep. We do see them on shorter trips but its not often they are going to be keeper sized inside 120-150ft of water.
Mangrove snapper is going well around our offshore waters and the average size has been large lately too! We are doing well on the mangroves and expect that to continue uninterrupted. They love the cut dead baits on the double snell rig as always, but the big boys are caught using the small to medium pinfish while gag fishing.
Yellowtail snapper continue to be much more prolific than historically thought possible. We are seeing them often while out fishing in deeper offshore waters in good sizes, but even into more shallow near shore waters we are seeing the yellowtail snapper just more commonly as you go deeper.
Mutton snapper like the yellowtail are surprising us all as they become more and more common in our area. We are seeing them like the yellowtail much more commonly out deep, but finding them come near shore too. They are just not as common or numerable as the yellowtail snapper.
**REMEMBER, when fishing deeper near shore and especially offshore the Descend Act is in effect so when in federal waters you must have a descending device or venting tool ‘rigged and ready’ so be prepared with that venting tool if you know exactly where to vent the fish, but if you don’t here’s some helpful tips – https://bit.ly/3L5HTnv Plus, keep in mind using a descending device is super easy and doesn’t take much practice or as much precision as venting does, and right now you can get over $100 in FREE DESCENDING DEVICE GEAR by visiting this link and taking a short course on barotrauma mitigation techniques that will help more fish survive! The course is only about 10-15 minutes, and it will really help you preserve, protect, and proliferate our offshore fishery so spread the word -> https://returnemright.org/