Did the FWC make a mistake about snook?
August has arrived and thunderstorms remain part of our day. We continue with the daily afternoon westerly sea breeze and 90-plus degree temperatures. In early August, I take time to make sure all my boat maintenance is complete and my gear is in good working order. I typically run my charters during either the early morning or late afternoon. This way I can avoid the worst heat. I still have to contend with the thunderstorms, but usually I can dodge them. The snook bite will continue to be very slow but slightly improved from the past two years. My belief - from observations I've made on my charters and reports from other reliable charter captains - is that the snook recovery is working but not yet complete. One of my concerns is that when we do catch snook, most are the larger-size females, the same fish that will be carrying eggs for next year's spawn.As I stated in my July column, I fear that come September, when the snook season re-opens, every inshore charter boat captain and saltwater recreational angler with a snook permit on the west coast of Florida from Tarpon Springs south will go out and try to catch their limit of keeper snook. The limit is one per person so long as the snook measures 28 to 33 inches. I'm of the opinion everyone will be targeting the exact snook we should be protecting. I think the Florida Fish, Wildlife Conservation Commission made a big mistake allowing the season to open this year. I would have liked for it to wait until the next stock assessment that will be conducted in 2015, before allowing snook season to open. I, for one, will ask my customers not to keep any snook and encourage other recreational anglers as well as charter captains to do the same. We each have to make our own decisions. I'm sharing mine! v vTarpon fishing inside Tampa Bay has been slow to say the least. Most tarpon caught this time of year will be in the 100-pound class or smaller. We should be seeing them from Apollo Beach north to Port Tampa, near and around the Gandy Bridge and along the Sunshine Skyway Bridge; however, I'm not getting many reports of tarpon catches inside the bay. I fish tarpon on a strong, outgoing tide using large, live threadfin herring for bait. There are always a number of juvenile tarpon in most of the rivers that empty into Tampa Bay. The Hillsborough, Palm, Little Manatee and Manatee rivers are all known to hold these fish. Try fishing the mouth of the rivers using artificial bait on a strong, outgoing tide near sunrise or sunset. My favorite artificial is the DOA Bait Buster. Spanish mackerel also will be around through late October - or until the water temperature starts to drop. I fish mackerel with live greenbacks and usually chum with a frozen chum bag or cut-up white bait. Trout fishing was on the slow side in July, and I expect the bite to stay about the same. We caught plenty of trout, but most were small - less than 15 inches. I like to find grass in the four-foot-plus range and fish trout with a popping cork. You can catch trout with live shrimp or greenbacks. Mangrove snapper started to show up on the deeper structures and artificial reefs inside Tampa Bay. August is one of the best times of year to target this overlooked species. All it takes to catch these tasty fish is to find some structure in deeper water and send down a small shrimp on a No. 2 hook. Hold on, though. There are some big snapper in the bay this year! During the summer months I like to wade fish. I pick days when the tides will be low near or just after sunset. I typically use artificial baits and have great success with trout, snook and redfish. If for nothing else, watching a beautiful sunset while fishing a pristine South Shore grass flat is reward enough. Danny Guarino is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 956-2010 or [email protected]