Moving through the tail end of the season, late summer fishing on Tampa Bay remains hot – in more ways than one. With bay water temps in the low 90’s and the shallow flats breaching mid 90’s at times, catching fish can be a challenge anywhere. However, there are a few things to consider when planning your next adventure to ensure you have a successful trip.
For me, I do a lot of bay fishing this time of year. There are several reasons I choose to spend my time with clients in the deeper haunts of the bay. Right now, the Mangrove Snapper and Gag Grouper are thick as thieves and keep my folks happy with a few fish fillets at the end of the day. Tarpon are also still around and always a welcomed surprise when we have a late summer fishing opportunity. Spanish Mackerel, Sharks, and Jacks remain plentiful and keep the rods bent when needed.
The tide is the driving factor when planning a trip. Depending on what you want to target, fishing the right tide is the key.Unlike inshore fishing, the slack tide can be your friend. Especially when bottom fishing for Snapper and Grouper. Most of the deeper channels and edges (30ft to 40ft) can be challenging to target when the current is strong. I like fishing these spots about 30min. before and after the turn of the tide. You can normally only expect to have an hour or two on most days at any given area. The slower current allows your bait to get to get straight to the bottom with the least amount of weight. Particularly for larger Gag Grouper, this is very important in getting them out of the rocks. The Mangrove Snapper can be chummed to the surface during these periods as well and quick limits can be had if you capitalize on the opportunity.
The bait of choice has been live pilchards and smaller pinfish. I prefer to use medium gear (7Ft Rod w/ 5000 Series Spinning Reel – 20lb Braid). It’s a good idea to oversize your gear in an effort to get the fish up as soon as possible. Sharks and Porpoise have been a common nuisance, grabbing fish on the way up. Make adjustments to your leader (20lb to 60lb) and hook size (#1 to 5/O) depending on bait size and water clarity. I find myself fishing a traditional “knocker” rig regularly and select the size of my sinker based on the current and depth. You want just enough weight to hold bottom in most cases. Generally, I am somewhere between 1/4oz and 1oz. Anything heavier than that will get hung in the rocks on the slower tides. If you need more weight, it’s probably a good time to move or target something else.
On the stronger tides, we have had a blast catching Spanish Mackerel, Sharks, and Jacks. A good starting point is looking for bait pods. Most of the local bridges, reefs, shoals, and deeper rock piles will be a sure bet. I like loading down with live bait and chumming these areas to draw the predators to the boat. Once you have located the fish, any flashy artificial bait will get the job done as well. For live bait, I often switch up to a long shank hook to avoid the break-offs. Adding a short piece (6”) of 40lb leader at the terminal end will also help getting the toothy fish to the boat.
It won’t be long and we will shift our focus to the backcountry and shallow flats. September marks the next transition. As we roll through and out of out of late summer fishing, expect to start seeing schools of Redfish invading the bay and Snook gearing up for fall as they move towards the creeks and rivers. Be on the lookout for next month’s report, changes are on the horizon. Until then, Tight Lines!
The Suzuki Repower Fishing Report is sponsored by Suzuki Repower and Mastry Engine Center.
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