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Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Mangrove snapper, silver trout, Spanish mackerel are South Shore’s best bets

The weather so far this month has been all but typical, with rain just about every day, a little wind, hot, and then a little hotter. But let’s face it — it’s August on the west coast of Florida.

Fishing and catching have been good but not great in South Shore waters this past week. Our most consistent bite has been mangrove snapper, albeit on the smaller side.

The big surprise has been the number of silver trout caught throughout the week. They’re a bit smaller than speckled trout but are excellent table fare. In fact, I can’t tell the difference between them once they’re in the frying pan.

We’ve been catching these delightful-tasting fish on a number of deep grass beds throughout Tampa Bay. Just hook up a shrimp and cast it into a sandy spot near the grass and wait. I usually add just a little weight to my line to keep the bait in one spot.

Don’t be surprised if you hook into a flounder, speckled trout or a line-dragging Spanish mackerel. All of these fish will be in the same area.

Mangrove snapper are making a showing at some of the deeper structure throughout the bay. Two popular spots are the Bahia and Port Manatee artificial reefs, which are just a short boat ride from the Simmons Park boat ramp.

Catching a mangrove snapper is fairly simple. Snapper have small mouths, and the use of a No. 2 circle hook along with enough weight to get your bait to the bottom will improve your odds of a hook-up. Shrimp or small greenbacks are excellent choices for bait.

Don’t forget to take a frozen chum bag. Hanging the chum over the side helps draw the fish closer to you. Again, don’t be surprised if you hook a few other species like gag grouper or Key West grunts. They all coexist on deeper structure.

We’ve also had a few reports of some Spanish mackerel catches inside Tampa Bay. The bigger ones — some more than 24 inches — are being caught near deeper structure. Try getting upcurrent from the structure and let the current move the bait toward it. If the macks are there, just hold on.

With water temperatures approaching the 90-degree range, it’s advisable to get to your fishing spots early and take advantage of the slightly cooler water. As the water temperatures heat up, the fishing bite tends to slow down.

I like to be off the water by 2 p.m. That way I miss the late afternoon heat. It’s important to be safe out there and ever mindful of our thunderstorms.

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]

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