South Shore Tampa Bay By: Capt. Joel Brandenburg

November to Remember

Last November we stopped at an oyster bar at the mouth of an estuary outflow canal on the south shore of Tampa Bay on a high outgoing tide to try to catch some redfish.

We Power Pole’d down 20 yards from the bar with the wind at our back and started chumming with a few dozen crippled greenbacks. Big fish started blowing up on our chummers right away. One by one the baits were casted a foot off the bar and one by one the baits were nailed.

To my surprise, my clients started reeling in one trophy trout after another. I’m talking fat 25 to 30 inch gator trout. For two months we had only caught reds off this bar, no snook, no trout, only reds, now only big trout.

We thought that it was probably a one day phenomena, we thought we just caught a school of big breeder trout transitioning past, we thought wrong. They were at that bar on that tide almost every day we fished in November. We won the trout division of both grand slam tournaments we entered in November.

This spot was so hot that when boats came close by we had our clients to flip their bails and feather the line with their rod tips down to look like we were not catching anything. We didn’t take too many pictures either for fear someone would see the background.

By December they were all gone. We opened their stomachs while cleaning them and the only thing that they had in their stomachs were our chum baits. Another thing we noticed was that all the trout over 20 inches were full of eggs.

We’ve also found that as the tide rolled out lower and lower we stopped catching the monster females and were catching smaller 15 inch buck trout. We’re not sure why those big females were at that oyster bar all November, but I have a theory. I think big spawning trout lay their eggs in and around oyster bars with heavy flows in November in Tampa Bay and nearby waters. The bucks come in right behind them to fertilize the freshly laid eggs in the oysters.

I think the fat lethargic females are hungry because they have not fed, and don’t have the energy to chase baits, but they will suck down a bait if an easy opportunity arises. Small fry greenbacks covered the flats and we did find those same small greenbacks in the belly of the bucks. We got our bait each day from the skyway bridge and it was much bigger bait than what was on the flats, that’s how we could tell that the bait in the stomachs of the huge females were our greenbacks.

Where the gator trout go on the other tides in November is still a mystery to me, but I think they scatter on the open grass flats and all meet back up at certain spawning spots during high outgoing tides.

Trout season has been open all year round for the last couple years. Prior to that trout season was only open a few months of the year. We’re anxious to see if the gator trout will be at the same bar in November this year or if the year round season has them in decline. So far we’ve seen no decline in the quantity or quality of the trout population.

November offers much more than great trout fishing, look for Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, shark, snook, redfish, flounder, tarpon, snapper, sheepshead, black drum, cobia, triple tail, bonita, bluefish and monster jacks.