In the days after a new or full moon, the sunrise and sunset fishing on Tampa Bay is a particularly good summer pastime, not only because the temperatures are cooler, but also because the fish are likely to be feeding better than they do at any other time of day.
On our area of the coast, the minor low comes near sunup in the days just after the primary moon periods, and the major low comes near sundown. In between, the high tides are higher than normal. Thus, there's a whole lot of water flowing off the flats on the ebb, and flowing water makes for great fishing, particularly in hot weather.
The full moon Monday still is strongly affecting the flows today, which means that anglers on the outside bars and around the sloughs can expect a good bite this evening.
Basically, action can be good anywhere there's a cut that will concentrate the runoff from the shallow flats out to the deeper waters of Tampa Bay proper. The entire shoreline from Ruskin south to the Bulkhead of Anna Maria Sound is excellent for this sort of fishing, as is the outside edge of the flats along Old Tampa Bay's west shore, north of the Howard Frankland Bridge.
It's possible to fish some of the deeper runouts from the outside from a boat, for those nervous about stingrays. However, you'll catch many times more fish if you leave the boat at least 100 feet outside the bar and wade in to the target zone. In the shallow waters, the mass and the wave noise created by any boat definitely prevents many fish from biting.
How do you find the runouts? It's mostly a matter of getting out there on the bottom of the tide, the last hour or so of runout, and looking for the few areas where there's a flow through the bar; a slight riffle usually reveals the movement. Most of these cuts are not extremely obvious; they may be only 10 feet wide and perhaps a foot or two deeper than the surrounding bar. But they act as funnels to push all the finger mullet, sardines, shrimp and crabs on the flat back out toward deeper water, and the snook, reds and trout typically wait right at the drop.
In fact, on extreme lows, it's not uncommon to see redfish and snook with their dorsal fins and tails exposed through the surface, so shallow do they go hunting for food.
Captain Fred Everson of Ruskin is among the masters at this type of fishing, and one of his favorite lures is a soft plastic jerkbait, rigged weedless when there's a lot of floating moss, as there usually is in summer.
I've done well on this type of fishing with some of the smaller Tsunami swimbaits - the 3-inchers that look like pot-gut minnows are deadly when snook get into the emerging grass and suck up the tiny baitfish there. The trick is basically to cast where you see the fish popping or showing their fins, and then rip the lure right through the grass. The hard twitches keep the small hook from fouling, and the fish plow right through the cover to take it.
Casting a DOA shrimp uptide and letting it drift back with the current also works very well, as does the same action with a MirrOdine.
Captain Jeff Horne of Ruskin, who generally keeps his clients in the boat, does well at the bottom of the tide by anchoring about 50 feet off the bar in the deeper holes and fishing live sardines. The tactic is particularly effective for trout, which are inclined to get out of the shallows as the water falls.
At times, a steady west wind will blow so much floating black algae on to the South Shore flats that fishing there becomes impossible, but that just means it's time to head across the bay and fish the upwind side, where the water will be clear in areas such as the Weedon Island flats.
GO OUTDOORS SPECIAL: The Tribune's Go Outdoors magazine, a 16-page special section, will be included with Friday's newspaper. The publication covers fishing and boating in the Bay area, and includes a selection of paintings from famed marine artist Diane Rome Peebles. There are also extra columns from the Tribune's Go Fishing writers, including Mel Berman, Mark Cook, Fred Everson, Ray Markham, Bill Miller and Randy Rochelle. A roundup of places to fish from bridges, piers and shoreline is also part of the magazine, as is information on boat selection, boat rentals and lots more.
SEA EXPO: Tampa Sailing Squadron hosts a free Safety at Sea Expo on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1250 Apollo Beach Blvd. in Apollo Beach. Visit www.tampasailing.org for details.