Tampa Bay Fishing Report
The weather is hot, that’s for sure. Fishing conditions change as we head in to the heat of summer. You have to change your tactics accordingly. I tell clients that an early start is usually the best – but late afternoon on a good tide can produce as well. You also have to consider the threat of our afternoon storms. They can be a real hazard. Summer is challenging, but there are plenty of fish to be caught.
Summer, to me, is one of the top times to catch big snook. The big fish have moved out to the beaches and passes for the summer spawn. They can be very easy to catch, but, since the season is closed, all fish should be handled with great care and properly revived and released. Often time, trophy snook can be sight-fished along the beaches. I’ve found that early morning on a high tide produces best. Whether walking the beach or working the boat carefully down the first trough line from the beach, big snook can be found feeding in the swash channel where the surf meets the sand. They’ll be in only inches of water. Working a live bait or soft plastic jig parallel to and just off the beach is a great bet. An Exude RT Slug or Berkly Gulp shrimp 3″ in pearl white are my choices. I’ll use a 1/8 or 1/4 oz. jig head – nothing too heavy. Free-lined sardines are also very effective. Again, working near to and parallel the beach. Don’t think you have to fish deep. Additionally, most area bridges, rock lines, and passes will hold good numbers of fish. Dock structures, especially at night, are prime areas.
Spotted sea trout are a year-round species. Area grass flats are full of trout. While many are smaller fish, the deeper grass flats and sand pot holes can hold some keepers. Soft plastic jigs or live sardines are the best best. In the heat of the day, fish the deeper flats – 5 to 6 feet – and target areas of sand / grass overlap. There are many surprising areas in the middle of Tampa Bay that are prime due to depth and water flow. You can fish the shallow flats early in the morning for great trout action. Water temp and flow plays a big part. When the water gets warm – like the upper 80s that we currently have – it holds less dissolved oxygen and, therefore, less fish. Just a couple of degrees less in water temp makes a big difference. Be smart. Don’t spend too much time fishing in bath water!
One of my favorite, but somewhat elusive as of late, fish to catch is the redfish. They are scattered along the deeper mangrove lines and around area oyster bars and structure. Again, water temp and the heat of the day will regulate where you catch the reds. Free-lined sardines of live shrimp are a great bet. Deep mangrove lines, say 3 to 4 feet, where current is moving are prime spot. Many fish retreat far up under the mangroves during the heat of the day. Live bait chumming can sometimes get the fish feeding, or at least signal to you if that they are present. Most guides a seeing a decline in the redfish bite. I would agree that it’s slower this year than last. Patience will be required in the pursuit of redfish.
Summer is a great time to fish Tampa Bay. Tactics change, but there’s plenty to catch. Bait is usually easy to find and boating conditions are good. Work around the heat and afternoon storms and you’ll be successful. Shoot me a text or call me if you have fishing questions. I’ll be happy to answer them. Tight lines and be safe out there.
Capt. Scott Keith