Lately, the quality, variety and size of fish caught in this area has been greater than I ever expected.
Those heading offshore need go little farther than the Whistle Buoy at the beginning of the ship channel to find great fish. Sailfish have been common. Just to see them "wave" at you is a treat. If they hit your top-water baits, expect the excitement of a lifetime.
Remember that you are in federal waters out there, and to keep a sailfish you need a federal permit. You can keep one without a permit, but it must be caught in state waters no more than 10 miles out. Chum while you're out there, as the black fin tuna and kingfish are all over the place.
Kingfish have been inside the bay for weeks. I saw one caught near the Port Manatee Channel that went a good 5 feet. Fish the Tampa Bay channels with large, live baits and expect to tangle with large fish. Not only are kingfish around but large gags, goliath, bull reds, shark and giant snapper abound.
A friend was telling me how he has been anchoring up along a rocky channel edge to fish for gags. He uses 5/0 circle hooks and 60-pound leader for those grouper and catches them with regularity. What is surprising are the 5-pound snapper inhaling his pinfish and other larger live baits. I have never seen so many big mangrove snapper come out of Tampa Bay as I am seeing lately.
The state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission just had a meeting in Perry on changing grouper regulations for the state. During the past few years, we started having seasons that followed new federal guidelines. Those guidelines created the short seasons and smaller bag limits we now deal with.
Changes being discussed include a one-day fishing limit, along with a change in the time-of-year to allow a gag harvest. For updates and to share your opinion, go to www.myfwc.com.
I will be doing a free inshore grouper seminar at Shell Point Marina at 10 a.m. Oct. 27 as part of the marina's fall festival. After the seminar you will still have a few days to put what you learn into practice. This month is the end of our new gag grouper season until maybe next July.
Catch 'em up.