Our bay waters are in the 90-degree range. That’s hot, and the fishing can be also.
I mean “hot” like in fast and furious biting. Then again, it can be “cold” in that some fish are just not biting. Let me refresh you on what’s hot and what’s not so far this summer.
If you like to catch smaller snapper for both sport and table fare, the bite is fire hot. Multiple times I’ve been chased out of my normal patterns around the bay by our summer storms. For a back-up plan, I just go catch snapper. I mean ferocious biting, like in one-after-the-other catching is going on right now.
My last trip out is an example. We left the Little Manatee River expecting to fish for grouper near the Sunshine Skyway. Nature told me to forget it. Storms were building in the early morning, and I do not do lightning strikes well. Fortunately I had stopped at South Bay Bait and Tackle and picked up some dead shrimp. They had a recent die-off and lots of dead shrimp to clean out, so I bought a large bag and stuck them in the cooler just in case. Just-in-case became the bait of the day.
Storms stopped me outside the river so I just anchored on some close structure. It was not a bite. It was a feast, as snapper after snapper hit those dead shrimp. I used smaller 1/0 hooks with around 25-pound fluorocarbon leader so the fish weren’t spooked. As the storms got closer, we were forced to come in early but with smiling faces. It’s been like that for the past month. Hot, hot fishing for our bay snapper is going on right now.
Cold fishing is for our grouper. Many are trying and occasionally some do find one that gets invited home to dinner. The fish just don’t seem very active and rarely chase much of a moving bait. So the secret when the bite is cold is to stick something slow, dead and desirable in their face. That mouth will open. A few are being caught on frozen sardines, pinfish and my favorite – chicken gizzards.
I posted a picture of a nice 28-inch gag on a local fishing forum. It was one I caught on a piece of chicken gizzard. In the hot water, a lethargic gag doesn’t want to move far or fast. The bite may not be great but there is one. Go slow, fish dead or slow-moving baits and try to be out there during cooler times.
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.