Many factors must come together to label a day of fishing as successful. In the end it’s often just meeting the expectations of the fishermen that define it. And what those expectations are can radically vary from one person to another.
Experienced locals often want big snook, trout, redfish and a tarpon thrown in to call their day successful. Others want a cooler full of grouper, snapper and a couple of flounder thrown on top. Visitors may be very happy with a boat ride, guided explanation of the area and some catfish tugs with a few jacks and mackerel. Sometimes just seeing some dolphin, sea birds, bait pods and a few large ships moving along the channel can make the day successful.
Each of us is different. Think and talk to your captain and others on board before heading out to fish. That way everyone will have an idea of what success means.
The snapper bite is still wild on most reasonably sized structure across the bay. If live bait is hard to catch, buy shrimp or use frozen sardine chunks or squid. I recently did a test on what baits snapper might hit. Found out if you present almost anything, including a piece of chicken gizzard, you can expect to get good fish right now. We only got bothered by shark using sardines. That can also tell you that if you want shark, try sardines.
One big thing to remember about snapper is they are more leader-shy than other bay fish. Use small hooks and long fluorocarbon leaders in the 20-pound range to promote success. You can’t cook ‘em, if you don’t hook ‘em.
I’m quite surprised at the number of tarpon hanging around our shorelines and bridges. At the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and along the Port Manatee Channel, it’s become a summer challenge for kayakers to get out early and dunk pinfish. The height of tarpon fishing is over, and little boats have a better chance to find undisturbed areas to fish. There has to be real excitement hooking and fighting a tarpon from a kayak. I see more and more fishermen trying it.
Local gag grouper fishing has been slow. Pinfish and dead baits seem to be getting the most fish. Trolling plugs and large jigs just haven’t worked for many so far this year. If the water cools, that could change.
As I write this, there’s lots of news talk about red tide. None of that is around here. It seems to be in an area north of us and about 80 miles offshore. I don’t want it anywhere, especially around our South Shore waters. For now, don’t even think about red tide. Our waters are clean.
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.