Tampa Bay Fishing Report By: Capt. Woody Gore

It seems the spotted sea trout are showing up on most deeper grass flats and around rocky bottoms with grass. Other captains are reporting decent catches of sizable trout along the southwest and southeast shores of Tampa Bay. Smaller greenbacks are working fine, but remember, a shrimp is always on the top of a trout’s menu of favorite things to eat. It is like a lollipop to a youngster. They cannot seem to resist a juicy live shrimp dangling under a popping cork. The bigger fish around the south end are popping up on the shallow water grass flats. Do not forget about those artificial lures. There is good jerk bait action on shallow water broken bottom grass flats. Artificial lures allow for faster fishing and the ability to cover more area and potholes.

The Spanish mackerel are back! It happens each year when the threadfins and sardines move into Tampa Bay–the giant Spanish mackerel follow them wreaking havoc on anglers tackle everywhere. I am getting reports of giants topping the scales between two to three pounds and measuring close to 28 inches long. These big fish can practically snatch the fishing rod right out of your hand, especially if you are daydreaming. The teeth on these guys are so brutal that Capt. George Jonah and I finally resorted to steel leaders with long shank hooks. However, when I am out of steel, I revert to 60-pound Seaguar Fluorocarbon and shiny longshank Daiichi hooks, and I still get cut off. If you’re looking for some drag screaming action, check out the mackerel fishing in Tampa Bay–you’ll be hooked.

Redfish are still catch and release. Check on myfwc.com for opening date. They are showing up around the bay, on the flats and mangroves. We are seeing some small schools and catches of our favorite shallow water bruisers. We have seen some good action on high water around the mangroves on both greenbacks and cut bait. Often referred to as dead-sticking, because the rod basically sits in the rod holder until the fish grabs the bait. While it may seem boring, sometimes it does work. Cut pinfish, ladyfish and mullet work equally well on redfish, snook or trout. Put a chunk on a circle hook and toss it way out into a likely travel lane. Drop the rod into the rod holder, grab a beverage, sit back and relax. When the rod bends, grab it and reel. Oftentimes, when the rod bends, you get a real surprise–there is a giant snook on the other end. Snook, especially the big ones, really like chunky dead bait. On the other hand, if you can find a school of redfish and you have enough greenbacks to start chumming, you can usually peak their interest long enough to snatch a few out of the crowd before they move off. Where are the redfish? They’re out there–it’s a matter of looking until you find them.

Snook is still catch and release. Fishing for snook in the summer is almost a given. Almost any mangrove shoreline holds snook, provided there is bait and structure. They are one of our most preferred and targeted species throughout the bay. Terrific ambush feeders, they love lying in wait along shady mangrove root systems. Rocky shores and adjacent sand bars are also good places to investigate. Early morning flats produce well using topwater lures. Remember, live greenbacks and cut bait also produce. Your best chance of catching one is during an incoming tide.It’s just a matter of time and the cobia will show up around markers, on flats and buoy cans, especially those holding bait. Mangrove snapper should be on fire this year, as the water warms early. I am anticipating a good snapper bite all summer. We are also catching some nice southern flounder on the same rocky bottoms as the trout. The sharks are also showing up. If you’re interested, shark fishing can be lots of fun. Be careful, they are not to be taken lightly if you handle a smaller one.