As we push through the dog days of Summer and lean on the hinge-pin of Fall, I am happy to report that Tampa Bay is firing on all cylinders. Despite recent Red Tide events within the interior reaches of the bay, right now the only “Red” we’re seeing along the South Shore are … Red – fish. In the last several weeks, things in our area have cleaned up pretty nice and some signs of normality are beginning to show. Good numbers of Red Drum (Redfish) are gathering up in their typical areas preparing for cooler temps and Fall spawning activities. In the bay, the Mangrove Snapper bite remains strong with large spawning aggregations still thriving and Gag Grouper are testing our tackle daily!
Inshore we are targeting the deeper shorelines on the higher tides and fishing the drop offs near the sandbars on low tides. For bait, most healthy grass flats have been holding plenty of pilchards with a good mix of pinfish as well. In most cases, water depth will somewhat dictate bait size this time of year – especially if the sun is up. For me, the bigger baits have been in 4-6 ft of water as opposed to the smaller stuff in 2 ft or less. One tip for using smaller bait is down sizing your tackle. Try going to 20 lb leader and a no 1 hook. Using a float or popping cork will also help make the baits a little more “fishable”. Regardless, the Redfish and Snook will have no problem feasting on what you serve once you find them.
The other option we have is getting out in the bay, which I love. At times, it is weather and tide dependent. However, with a little planning and luck, the rewards can be fantastic. The Mangrove Snapper bite seems to still be the catalyst to a great day on the bay but as water temperatures drop, expect for the Grouper to turn on. For the snapper, small live or dead baits have been the trick. Selecting the right leader and weight (if necessary) is always the difficult part sometimes. In a perfect world, a free-line (no weight) is best but more often than not, adding a small split shot weight or jig head will yield better results. For me, I don’t like to get into anything over ¼ oz when I am snapper fishing but I will go up to about a ½ oz or so if the fish or tide demand it. Generally, I will just move to a different area or shallower water until the tide changes. Snapper as a whole are picky fish and at times can be really tough to catch – the more natural you can make your presentation, the better! Right about the time you get the snapper bite dialed in, the grouper will start testing your tackle.
Often times, the commotion of the Snapper fiesta will get the groupers excited and they will test their luck on a bait. More often than not, they win the battle but if you do manage to get one hung. Be patient, release pressure and give it a minute. Most of the time they will come out and you can work them in – even on light tackle. One advantage for shallow water grouper is having a GPS trolling motor. It is extremely beneficial to get the boat setup just right and make small adjustments on the fly to work fish out of structure. I couldn’t imagine the number of fish we would have lost if I didn’t have a Rhodan GPS Anchor on the bow.
The Suzuki Repower Fishing Report is sponsored by Suzuki Repower and Mastry Engine Center.
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