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Aripeka to Longboat Key
Includes Hudson, New Port Richey, Anclote Key, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Clearwater, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Anna Maria Island and Bradenton
A mild weather pattern for most of the past week has turned up the action inshore and offshore. Settled seas headed into the weekend can be great for all, but pay attention as we get toward Sunday with a front possibly headed our way.
Anglers hopping aboard the head boats running out of Hubbard’s Marina at John’s Pass have a lot to smile about. Some banner catches on the half-day boats with hogfish, grunts, mangrove snapper, and so many more have anglers coming back for more. The fishing out to the half-day mark, generally from 50-to 65-feet has been excellent. The 44-hour boat trips are coming in with loaded fish boxes. Big mangos, red grouper, porgies, blackfin tunas, amberjacks and so many more to count have consistently been in the catch. Check their Facebook page out. It’s impressive.
Prior to last week’s cold front, anglers were catching quite a few kingfish and some nice Spanish mackerel from Sarasota north to Tarpon Springs. But the cold blast that dropped the water temperature into the low 60’s pretty much put the cabash on that fishery temporarily. Both seem to have pushed south toward the Keys were they normally spend the winter months. It appears that these fish may not spend much time to the south though, since the cold weather that moves in on us hasn’t stuck around for more than a few days before a rapid warm-up replaces the cold. Since the intensity and duration of our cold fronts have been relatively mild, I would anticipate this year’s southward migration of kingfish to stall down near Naples or Ft. Myers before we see spring arrive. At that point, it might be anyone’s guess when these fish will turn back around and move back up for tournament anglers to make an early run at these fish.
No word yet from the FWC on the impending changes to hogfish size and bag limits. A change is expected most any time, so keep up with these changes by checking www.myfwc.com before each trip you take.
It’s not quite time yet, but it won’t be long before fat sheepshead will be invading the flats. Every year at this time sheepshead begin staging up on nearshore wrecks and artificial reefs in preparation for their spawning period that usually centers on the full moons in February and March. These fish are delicious on the table but kind of cagey to catch. You have to be quick on the hook set if you’re using J-hooks. Circle hooks make catching them a little easier, since you only have to reel when you feel the fish to set the hook. They may be tough to clean and get a knife into their tough hide, but for those who do, they are a favorite on the plate.
In some areas, flounder have been nearly non-existent. Reports over the past week say that a few are being caught now, so perhaps we’ll see some flatty action on the rise.
Areas on the south end of the Suncoast have been plagued with red tide for months with very little relief. However, recent scattered reports of the bloom have been allowing some action to pick back up in the Sarasota area. Capt. Rick Grassett of CB Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key filed a good report this past week. His anglers fishing jigs and flies put some nice snook, trout, redfish, and bluefish in the boat. Capt. Rick’s been fishing between south Sarasota Bay and the Charlotte Harbor area.
Most areas from Clearwater Harbor north to Hernando Beach have experiencing an influx of some big speckled trout. Most trout in these areas have been caught on live shrimp or whitebait, but for anglers tossing artificial lures, they may have a leg up on trout there. Schoolie sized trout are taking small jigs, but the big fish have been crushing topwater lures like the Heddon Zara Spook Jr. in the bone color, MirrOlure MirrOMullet XL in the 18 color, the Paul Brown Fat Boy, and the new Rapala Skitter V. A growing legion of anglers throwing Live Target lures that imitate scaled sardines in models that sink slowly or suspend are doing quite well with spotted seatrout. With water temperatures rising this week, jumping back into the 70’s in some areas, fish have gotten active and have been feeding heavily around periods of moving water. However, look for slower tides for the weekend as we hit the last quarter of the waning moon. If the front that is predicted to come in late in the weekend arrives ahead of time, you can expect the DOA Deadly Combo to be one of the most productive artificial lures to use, especially when the wind picks up. Snook, trout, redfish, jacks, ladyfish, bluefish, and many more fall for this combo of cork and artificial shrimp.
Snook and redfish on the northern end of the West Central area from Dunedin to Tarpon Springs have been caught in fair numbers. Cut baits like pinfish or ladyfish have been top producers for ladyfish and live pilchards, A.K.A. whitebait or scaled sardines, have attracted snook for catch-and-release action.
Last week’s cold front didn’t stick around long enough to do much toward kicking off this year’s crappie season. These fish like cooler weather and for a brief time we had it. But back up into the 70’s again the beginnings of schooling crappie are breaking up in many deep water lakes. Bass fishing should just explode any time as these big mouth bass get ready to spawn. Keep your eyes peeled around lake edges and in the shallows for evidence of fish fanning beds. When you do, pull out your top creature baits like lizards and crawfish and you’ll get your rods bent! ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!