The water has warmed and so have the fishing opportunities.
Iím turned on by the changes and even a bit encouraged by recent proposals for fishing regulations. I was asked about some of them recently the moment I walked into a South Shore tackle shop.
Red and scamp grouper are open. Both seasons re-opened April 1. Gag grouper season is not open and will not be open until July. Seems Florida is starting to break away from federal grouper regulations a little.
This year, in federal waters, the gag seasons will close when certain quotas are met. No clue how thatís figured, so donít ask. That closure should be sometime in late October or November.
What is encouraging is that Florida has decided it will keep gag grouper open in state waters until Dec. 3. For our state waters itís that simple.
A variation of this state-federal difference continues with American red snapper.
This year Florida gets only a 21-day season for this species starting June 1. Thatís it. Back in í07 Florida had a 194-day season. The fish abound in our waters today. We just canít fish for them.
Federally Louisiana only gets nine days to fish for them
but the state has decided to grant a longer season in its own waters. Texas also made changes that are not in line with federal regulations. Maybe Florida will also? Our issue here is these snapper are not common in the shallower state waters near Tampa Bay.
Spanish mackerel are here in quantity. Gotcha plugs and small silver spoons will tear them up. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge fishing piers are yielding large catches of nice fish. Boaters getting around the artificial reefs now find them easily. Set up some kind of chum line around bay markers, and you can start your own private action.
The kingfish are also here. Most anywhere along the Egmont Ship Channel out past Egmont Key is a good place to start. Inside the bay that same channel and Port Manatee Channel are great places to find real big kings.
Those fishing around Port Manatee are often bothered by one particular Goliath about the size of a V-8 car engine. Find some kind of large baitfish and attach two strong rod and reel combinations to a 10/0 or larger hook. With two rods and two fishermen, you might have a chance to yank it up for a closer look. Take a picture. We all want to see it.
My sheepshead fishing has continued to be spectacular. I like to catch fish you can keep and are also good to eat. Fishing for sheepshead on the channel edges with shrimp shows me constant action. So get out there and catch Ďem up.