Redfish beginning to school in South Shore waters of Tampa Bay
Fishing in midsummer couldn't get any better. Recent afternoon thunderstorms have provided enough water to keep the flats cool, but not too much to change the salinity and push the fish off the flats. This has really turned on the inshore bite. Water temperatures have been fluctuating between 83 and 88 degrees, depending on the amount of rain we've had the evening before. Fishing on the days with lower water temperatures has been the most productive. Smaller bait is around most of the flats from Cockroach Bay down to Port Manatee, and it's easy to get. I suggest throwing a Calusa 10-foot ¼-inch mesh net to ensure you don't gill the smaller baits.Don't stress over finding bigger baits as the smaller baits have been more productive. When baits are smaller, I downsize my hook to Daiichi #1 Bleeding circle hook. Redfish have been plentiful. The key to catching these beautiful bronze bruisers has been accurate casts close up underneath the mangroves, where they stick to the shaded areas. Using Cajun Thunder bobbers has been the difference. Using bobbers enables you to keep your baits up next to the mangrove trees and also helps keep the bait out of the sea grass. Remember to be patient when targeting redfish, as they are a roaming fish. Have your bait well full and use plenty of chum baits to increase the size of your catch. Snook are approaching the post spawn period, and you will start to see most fish make the transition from the spoil areas, passes, beaches and bridges to the outer flats as we head into the fall. With the rainfall we've had and the lower water temperatures on the flats, I've noticed an early push of snook moving to them. The same areas that have been showing good numbers of reds have also been producing snook. Most have been small fish, but I have found a few bruisers hanging tight to the mangroves. Most have made short work of our light tackle Fins Braided line with 25-pound Ohero Fluorocarbon leader by breaking us off, but it has sure made for an adrenaline rush. Trout have also continued to be great on the outer flats. Most have been in the 5- to 8-foot depth range on the deeper grass flats. And most fish have been 13 to 15 inches with just a few exceeding 20 inches, but they are plentiful and will be great to get the youngsters out to bend a rod. Free lining the smaller greenbacks has been great for the smaller trout. There is no need to look for bigger bait. Summer tarpon just haven't been very productive yet this year. I have really put some effort into finding the silver king, since these resident fish typically venture into the bay, but I haven't found many fish this year. This could be due to Tropical Storm Debby that hit this year. As we head toward the fall, I hope to see a late run of the fish move into the bay.
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]