The warm, rainy summer waters in Tampa Bay are quite dark, stained with run-off water from all our recent rains. They’re not as hot as they could be but still warm. Put those together and the fish are slow and don’t see things well. They can still hear and smell to find food, though. Take advantage of that.
My recent grouper trolling success has come from either dead baits soaked over structure or slow trolling. It’s like you have to almost bump the baits into the fish to get a reaction. I’m getting that reaction and catching nice gags.
Using 4-ounce jigs with curly tails works for me. My trick is to get the baits over structure and pull back on the throttle so the boat almost stops the baits on fish. Of course, you have to know where the fish are because that’s an essential part of success.
Dark tails actually work better than lighter ones in this water. My guess is fish see poorly but do see an outline of darker baits better than the light ones. It just might be a case where white is not always right for these conditions.
Another trick for success is to use tails with a scent. You can get large curly tails in Gulp. That’s a scented bait often used by flats fishermen to enhance strikes. It also works for us grouper trollers. This adds scent to the sight and enhances strikes when the water isn’t clear.
Finding good tackle and bait just got a bit harder.
Larry and Barb Chalmers just closed South Shore Bait & Tackle. Many will surely miss that place like we missed the old Shell Point Bait & Tackle shop. Options for bait are now more limited. Shrimp and other live baits can be found at Ruskin Bait & Tackle, a few shops along U.S. 41 in Gibsonton and often at the marina at Little Harbor. Dead baits can be sourced at West Marine on Apollo Beach Boulevard and at Walmart.
Finding serious trolling tackle locally is now a problem. Your best bet is probably West Marine in Apollo Beach or T.A. Mahoney’s or Discount Tackle in Bradenton. Boat supplies, switches and pumps are stocked at Jackson Hardware on U.S. 41 near the Little Manatee River. We surely need a full-service bait and tackle shop in South Shore.
Another American red snapper season opens Oct. 1. That’s also when all grouper and amberjack will be open. Now’s a good time to prepare for an offshore trip or book a charter before things get filled. Make some plans to go … and catch ‘em up!
Larry Malinoski, aka the FishHawk, is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 469-7251 or firstname.lastname@example.org.