This year has been one of the hottest summers I can remember. We’ve had weird weather patterns of rain in the mornings and high-and-dry afternoons, which has resulted in hotter than normal water temperatures of more than 93 degrees. But don’t let that keep you landlocked as the fishing in Tampa Bay has been superb.
Mangrove snapper fishing this year has been the best I’ve ever seen in my 36 years. Mangroves have been on just about every wreck ledge and structure you can find in the bay. While some spots may require some time on the water, a good place to start are the local bay area bridges, which have a mixture of good tidal flow, structure and food.
When you have those three magical ingredients, fish aren’t far behind. The tackle of choice would be your typical flats rod and reel. I really like the 8-foot, medium-fast St. Croix rod matched with a 2500 wave spin reel. Match this with 10-pound Fins braided line and a No. 1 Daiichi circle hook, then add two or three No. 5 split shot weights and 20-pound Ohero fluorocarbon leader. Now you’re ready for battle.
Snook fishing has also been decent with lots of juvenile fish caught. This is a good sign to see smaller fish showing up, as most of the ones I’ve seen were bred after the big kill of 2010. Open season is right around the corner but I still urge everyone to practice catch-and-release on snook. While the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has made the decision to open season, the stocks in our area have not rebounded completely in Tampa Bay. Every fish makes a difference.
We are starting to see some schools of redfish show up on the outer flats, especially around on the new or full moons. This has been hit or miss and very inconsistent. If you find these schools, you’ll have bent rods for as long as you can stay with them.
I’d suggest throwing artificial lures as these fish are on the move. Mirrodine baits from Mirrolure will do the trick, and you need to work the lure as fast as you can. If you can’t find big school of reds, you should have some success fishing the higher tides around the Mangrove trees.
Timing is everything so fishing on days when the tide is higher in the morning will be your best chance for a successful day of fishing for reds. Your bait of choice would be small greenbacks suspended under a Cajun Thunder Back Bay float or cut pinfish soaked on the bottom. Both are very productive, but be ready to deal with catfish if you opt for cut bait. Hot water brings a ton of catfish to the flats.
Jason Prieto is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 727-9890 or [email protected]