Florida Fish Report
HM Fishing Report 9-22-23
by Hubbard's Marina Staff
INSHORE FISHING REPORT
Fish are on the move inshore right now and we are seeing big shifts in spatial distributions of a variety of species with the weather transitions that have been ongoing since the recent hurricane Idalia.
Specifically, we are seeing mangrove snapper numbers start to dwindle a bit and concentrations lighten up as the sheepshead start to take over these areas that have been engulfed with clouds of aggressive mangrove snapper through the warmer months. We are seeing the bigger mangroves swim near shore while the smaller fish retreat to the mangroves of the upper and back bay areas. Sheepshead show up to stay through the cooler months and only get more and more concentrated and aggressive with each passing cold front.
Snook action is also on the move as we see many of those fish moving off the beach and out of the passes retreating to the back bay and upper bay waters slowly as they transition out of their summertime haunts back to the back protected bay waters and upper bay waters that generally will holder warmer shallower waters. Once it gets cold, they will even push to rivers, creeks, and even shallow canals where that dark bay mud will radiate heat through the afternoon and into the night. However, we are not there yet, and the snook are just slowly meandering out of the passes and off the beaches. There are still fish around the pass through the night and into the early morning, just we are seeing already a dwindling down of those numbers of snook.
Redfish are also on the move with schooling redfish being more and more common throughout our area waters. The redfish love live shrimp or greenbacks, but it’s that weird time of year where you aren’t sure which is best, but those with success are loving the cut pinfish for the redfish too. Around the pass we are seeing huge numbers of redfish crowding the jetties and hanging around the bridge through the morning hours and into the daytime biting best on lighter tackle and live shrimp.
Pompano are still around the beaches, passes and outer bay areas but more are being caught back away from the beaches on those sandy edges of flats, or sandy cuts between flats. We see these guys chasing live shrimp and even sometimes soft plastics as they feed more around the flats.
Flounder action is going pretty good and should only get better in the coming weeks. Look for them with live bait on the bottom or slow-moving soft plastics bouncing along or dragging on the bottom.
Tarpon action persists around the bay pretty heavily, especially around the skyway and approaches to the skyway but most any area bridge has some tarpon on it. Johns pass bridge is holding plenty at night around the lights.
Shark action too is going really well inshore and around the passes and beaches. There are tons of them around right now and only seeing more and more it seems from the back and upper bay to the beaches. The biggest sharks remain around the passes and beaches but we are seeing some large ones in the bay too, especially bulls.
**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/ **
NEARSHORE FISHING REPORT
Hogfish action is picking up for us around Hubbard’s Marina aboard our private fishing charters, 5 hour half day party boat trips, and that ten hour all day deep sea fishing trip. We are seeing a bunch of hogfish on the private fishing charters aboard the HUB and Flying HUB 2 especially when guests want to target them specifically we really can dial in to the hogfish well using light tackle and live shrimp like we outline on our fishing tips and tricks page of our Hubbard’s Marina website. We have a few videos on hogfish tips, tricks and techniques including what rods, reels, leaders, hooks, lures and more to use to be more successful targeting hogfish! Definitely check out the bountiful videos not only on our website but also our YouTube channel if you’re interested (don’t forget to subscribe). We are finding the hogfish mote notably around 30-70ft of water on those ledges and hardbottom areas. We are having some days with 5-10 and other days where we get 15-20 keeper hogfish. Its not primetime yet, but its getting there and we are excited to see that only improve and get better and better with the passing weeks. We typically see the best hogfish action around October – April each year.
Lane snapper fishing is going insanely well near shore and offshore and even seeing them now inshore too. Its really wild to see their spatial expansion across the range of our fishery over the last decade. We used to only see them around 30-80ft somewhat rarely, but now we are seeing them on the flats of Tampa bay to the depths over 150ft of water. They used to be huge around 10-14inches now we regularly see them over 20-24inches which is wild! They are a super healthy fishery, but unfortunately fisheries science and management is struggling to keep up with their spatial expansion and explosion in biomass. We are likely going to see yet another quota closure on this fishery in the coming months as we saw the wave three data come out showing the fishery is more than halfway landed only half way through the year. This means the agency will forecast the assumed date in which the quota could be exceeded and due to federal law, they would have to close the fishery on or before said date. I am frustrated to see these quota closures in healthy fisheries, but it is a sign a fishery is getting healthier and its conservative measures to slowly increase quota commiserate with catch levels to avoid quota closures while not negatively affecting stock biomass. We catch lane snapper while targeting hogfish using lighter tackle and live shrimp, but they will bite just about any bait we put down there and they are extremely good eating too!
Mangrove snapper fishing is going well around the near shore waters too lately. We are seeing some good sized mangrove snapper while fishing with shrimp for the hogfish. They love to grab some nice shrimp on lighter tackle, but you can target them with smaller chunks of cut thread fin and some double snelled 3-4ot hooks hidden well in that chunk on lighter 30lb floro leaders and minimal weight.
Gag grouper are open right now but were more focused on them offshore currently as water temps are still pretty high and we haven’t had any really good fronts to push a large number of gags shallower yet. However, there are some near shore areas holding gags and if you target them with appropriate gear in these areas you are going to have a great shot at some nice fish. Even ‘inshore’ around the bridges and shipping channel we are seeing some nice gag grouper caught lately too. Trolling the mirror lure 111mr or the 25 plus its called is a great lipped plug for near shore or tampa bay trolling. We are also seeing live bait and large dead baits as good options for the gag grouper too!
Offshore Fishing Report
We are very focused on the gag grouper offshore right now, but we are seeing plenty of other fish too. The scamp grouper are coming up for us in big sizes. We are seeing good numbers of the triggerfish. The mangrove snapper bite is HOT with the average size going up. We are seeing lots of yellowtail snapper. Good numbers of mutton snapper surprisingly. Vermillion snapper in larger sizes and good numbers. Porgies, almaco jacks and other heads and tails too! Fishing offshore right now has been going really well and we do not have many people doing it too. The boats have all had super light loads and there’s plenty of time for one on one help from the crew even on our party boat and public trips. Normally, to get personalized one on one coaching and help you really would want a private fishing charter, but now with only handfuls of folks going fishing you can really get a nearly private charter style experience for the price of a party boat trip. While we are still running plentiful private charters aboard the Flying HUB 2 and the HUB to get yourself plenty of gag grouper, the 12 hour extreme, 39 hour and 44 hour trips give you a great shot at the gags too. You could catch a gag grouper on our ten hour all day and we do target them, but it’s a night and day difference comparing fishing 15-25 miles on that trip to fishing 70-100 miles on an extreme trip, 39 or 44 hour trip. The gags are more plentiful out deep, more concentrated, and larger too. We are catching most of the gag grouper using 80-100lb leader and 7-9ot hooks or larger. Typically if I am going to drop a very large bait over 6-8inches I am going to use 125lb leader and a 10-12ot hook for a bigger gag grouper battle. You want to make sure you have a reel with enough power to really handle the battle you are about to face with that big ole aggressive gag grouper. Something with around 40lbs of drag is a good idea. I like my daiwa saltiga ld 60 two speed, but even that is a little on the smaller size for a monster bait and targeting a big gag.
Mangrove snapper offshore right now as always are caught and targeted using that double snell rig and cut threadfin. However, this time of year you have to be careful using lighter tackle due to the threat of accidentally hooking into a bigger gag grouper. You don’t want to loose a big grouper and let him bust you off and shut down the bite, so you typically are going to be using more like 60-80lb test when targeting mangrove snapper which is typically much heavier than the normal 40-50lb test. We are also seeing some big mangrove snapper too on those smaller 3-4inch pinfish so that’s definitely important when dropping a live bait to have a bit heavier leader ready to fight that bigger gag grouper.