Offshore: November to me is the most productive and opportunistic time of year to catch a variety of species in the Gulf of Mexico. Just about every fish that frequents our coast line is available to anglers that come prepared to fish the next few months. The abundance of bait and cooling waters send fish into a “get it while you can” state of mind, and a well presented bait is rarely snubbed by gorging fish. If bottom fishing is your thing, then this is your time of year.
I implore you to expand your mind this time of year on bait choice and tackle selection. The same rock piles and ledges that you grouper fish on are home to an abundance of other tasty species such as: Flounder, Hogfish, Mangrove Snapper, Permit and Scamp. For these critters, a bait well full of shrimp, fiddler crabs, small pilchards or finger mullet are a must. Start by anchoring on a good piece of “grouper” structure and start fishing with some dead bait like squid or shrimp on spinners with 20-30 lb test braid. Mix up your rigs and presentation to see what’s working best. Knocker rigs and fisherman rigs with a one to two ounce egg sinker are primarily the “go to” rigs, try out some red or pink jig heads to mix it up. Once the bite gets turned on and there’s a few grunt in the box, switch to the live baits and be ready for some great light tackle action. While anchored, put out a flat line or two. Larger live bait such as blue runners, cigar minnows or mullet, running them way out the back about 75 yards on a balloon with a stinger rig under it. If you don’t have any large live bait, use the biggest frozen sardine you have on board. My second flat line is only about 50 feet behind the boat and has a 30 lb fluorocarbon leader, 2/0 hook, small split shot and a large shrimp.
Anglers seldom realize how many permit we have around our near shore reefs in 30 to 100 ft of water, not to mention the ever present Cobia will slurp up any vulnerable crustacean in its path. Tripletail are starting to show up. While you are cruising from spot to spot be sure to check under any crab balls or floating debris, they will look like a paper bag under the surface. If you spot one, then turn the boat around and approach it slowly. Free line a live shrimp or pilchard up current from the debris and hang on, this seemingly lazy fish will explode to life and even get airborne.
Inshore: November is the prime time of the year for finding large schools of Redfish on the flats around Ft. Desoto and Tampa Bay. There are several methods that will put fish in the boat but the key to success is stealth. Stealth means much more than just being quiet. Eliminating small things like shadows, hull slap and even trolling motors will greatly improve your chances for success. Never cast your bait over or in the middle of the school because it can only take one fish to spook the whole school. Instead, observe what they are doing and the direction they’re moving and position your bait in their path. Spinning reels from 2500 to 4000 series with 15 to 20 lb braid and a 3 foot 20lb fluorocarbon leader tied to either your lure or a 2/0 circle hook for live or dead bait. Lures like weedless gold spoons, root beer colored jigs and Savage Gear shrimp will defiantly get you some good bites. However if the water is dirty or the fish are pressured and more aware then you can’t go wrong with cut bait. Free line chunks of ladyfish, mullet or pinfish in the path of the school and let it soak. Redfish are very opportunistic and love fresh cut bait. Most of these fish are over the 18 to 27 inch slot limit and will need to be released. Take good care of them, making sure they swim away because these bruisers will fight it out until the end. Be respectful of other anglers that may be fishing the same school as you, giving each other space. This type of fishing is done either in the early morning or on weekdays. Weekend afternoons have just too much boat traffic and fish are spooked out.
What’s happening: December 10th is our 50th Annual Holiday Boat Parade with over $7,000 in cash prizes – Enter your boat and win!
As always, if you have any questions about tackle or other marine needs come see us at the Madeira Beach Marina. We can special order just about anything you will need and at a very reasonable price. Now go out there and take a kid fishing, it is extremely rewarding for you and will have a lasting impact on their lives. Have a safe trip and enjoy the paradise we live in.
Brian Crabtree – Marina Supervisor