You can’t be in more than one place at a time.
When gag grouper season was open I found myself usually heading offshore or trolling our South Shore waters for them. Although it was mostly a slow fishing season for gags inside the bay, I found a few to practice what I call the fillet-and-release technique. Now it’s time for other places and fishing opportunities.
The first change for me will be to start buying shrimp again and anchoring over rocky bottom. The sheepshead will be biting as will lots of smaller mangrove snapper and grunts that join the fun.
Redfish seem to show up on the new fillet table at Shell Point Marina each day. That good bite will continue along with the trout bite on our shorelines.
As bay waters continue to cool, start looking for cobia to congregate around the Big Bend Power Plant area. The warmer waters seems to attract them each holiday season. It’s an opportunity you want to take advantage of.
If you find cobia and hook one, remember they are social fish. Where there’s one there are probably two. Much like leaving a hooked mahi mahi in the water to attract other fish, watch the water around the cobia you are fighting. You often get an opportunity to hook another one that may be with it.
Just delay bringing in any cobia while you look for more. I recently fished with Glen Taylor and he taught me that trick. We were bottom fishing inside Tampa Bay when we hooked a smaller cobia.
“Wait,” Glen hollered. “Don’t bring it in just yet.”
Sure enough, a second cobia was swimming with the hooked one, and it was even larger. That was an opportunity that also taught me blackened cobia is delicious.
There is no longer a requirement to carry a venting tool on your boat. That ended after our lawmakers figured out carrying one did not mean you would or could use it.
A venting tool is essentially some form of hollow needle that’s supposed to be inserted into a fish brought up from the deep to vent an expanded swim bladder. Those who knew how to use them did but many just had the tool but didn’t use it. Often when we did, we jabbed the fish in the wrong place causing further injury.
Remember when fishing for any reef fish you still need to use non-offset, non-stainless circle hooks and have a de-hooking device on your boat. Those hooks and tools also make good and inexpensive presents for other fishermen in your life.
Enjoy the holiday time, hug your loved ones and take them fishing. There are plenty of opportunities in our waters to…
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.