I used to fish with an old captain on the Chesapeake Bay who said, “People don’t want to go fishing. They want to go catching.” I’ve never forgotten that.
Capt. Steve Betz recently took me on a catching trip inside Tampa Bay that flat wore me out. The target was Spanish mackerel, and the results were unreal. He took me on his boat to a sand flat in the bay. All he did was make one toss with the net to load the livewell with smaller greenbacks. Then we went over to the flat, anchored – and it was on.
The first few minutes were slow while we waited for the tide to turn. During that time I figured there would be some flounder action and there was. I started my catching with smaller flounder. Then the macks turned on.
There were many occasions when I had no time to close the bail on my reel before the line ripped off the reel. Steve uses long shank hooks through the lips of the bait and 50-pound leader. Those hooks are almost two-inches long and keep most of the fish’s teeth off the leader. Instead of being a liability with the hooks’ increased visibility, that shank is a major asset in both hooking and releasing each fish. We fished in water only five-feet deep and were free-lining our baits with no weight on the line.
We did both catch and keep and catch and release. After a couple hours of insane action, I wore out, sat back and just laughed. It was too much catching for me to continue. Then, a big ladyfish got into the fray to jump all around and add its special brand of top-water excitement. You should have been there.
Remember to bring along a small towel for handling the fish. I use an old face cloth to get a secure grip and control where those nasty teeth are. A face cloth is easy to rinse off when it gets all gooey, and you don’t lose much when you forget and leave it in the other guys’ boat.
I can’t say each time Steve goes out the action is this crazy. But I can say there are lots of you who dream of getting into something like this. Find out if it’s still going on by calling Steve at (813) 727-8843. Don’t invite me. I’m still worn out from all that catching.
Some larger trout are showing up along the Intercoastal Waterway and inside Tampa Bay. These cooler temperatures will only improve action for them. I expect the sale of Mirrordines in the No. 17 sardine color or pink to increase. If you want to catch some big trout, think of using them.
Gag grouper are still open until Dec. 3. The bite inside Tampa Bay and along South Shore has improved with the cooler water temps. If cold fronts don’t blow you off the water, get out there while you can and…
Catch ‘em up.
Larry Malinoski, aka the FishHawk, is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 469-7251 or firstname.lastname@example.org.