Hope you've enjoyed the great fishing we had along South Shore this past summer. Even the heavy rains and storms didn't dampen the bite for many fishermen.
Normally, I don't fish much in the hot, dark, fresh water. But this year, we faced the new reality that to catch and keep grouper, we had to fish here because we are only allowed to harvest gag until the end of October. In spite of the conditions, my fishing was outstanding.
For those using live bait, pinfish on the bottom continue to produce great catches of bay gags. If you troll and can find water without all the grass and debris, large trolling plugs work well.
When the water is fouled, jigs and curly tails behind planers have continued to be the hot ticket to success for me. Use darker 8-inch tails to give a strong profile to your bait. Slow your trolling speeds down to less than 4 mph for best results.
I've been a bit surprised at how few local tackle shops handle proper trolling gear and jig tails for gags. The only place I find that really has what works for me is Ruskin Bait and Tackle, right in "downtown" Ruskin.
If you stop, pick up a few large, black eel tails to use with a casting jig. Cobia show up along the markers off Apollo Beach, and they just can't resist hitting a long, black eel tail cast in their direction. I've seen nice cobia taken this summer, and that remains a pleasant surprise.
For those who enjoy fishing around Port Manatee, be aware that security regulations mean you must stay outside the last channel markers.
A friend strayed inside and had to pay a $73 fine. Before the Sept. 11 attacks, I caught many great fish in that port. There used to be giant sheepshead hanging around the concrete walls. Today, you can't get in close, but you can get a permit to fish around the island and some of the closed areas.
If you call (941) 722-6455 you can sign up for a "flag class" to gain access to closed areas. The cost is $39, and the class takes less than three hours. Just ask them where you can fish.
Hope you had a great fishing summer and are ready for the fall.
Catch 'em up.