Tampa Bay Fishing Report BY: Capt. Woody Gore

The Bay Area is seeing a return of large spotted sea trout, many over 20 inches. Also, the Southeast shore and the South end of Tampa Bay are reporting good catches on incoming or outgoing tides.

As always, live free-lined greenbacks or shrimp are the best baits for trout. I’ve also had success catching them on cut bait when targeting redfish. Another method worth trying is a popping cork with a medium split-shot and a 2/0 circle hook floated over a grass flat. Topwater plugs or soft jerk baits work well when fishing broken bottom grass flats, especially around potholes.

There is no shortage of mullet in the Bay, and redfish aren’t far behind. Greenbacks, small pinfish, shrimp and cut bait are all good baits for these fish. For those that like pitching soft plastics and topwaters around the mangroves, expect some great action on high incoming tides. If you’re lucky to find a school of reds moving around a shoreline, setup and wait as they will move back and forth when feeding.

Mackerel are showing up all over the Bay. Find a school of threadfins and start chumming to get the bite going. I’ve been catching them in the three to four-pound range using long shank 2/0 hooks and 50-pound Seaguar Fluorocarbon 60-pound leader.

For macks, try a popping cork and split shot like you would for trout–works well when the threadfins are really thick.

The snook bite has been excellent on the Bay’s grass flats. Greenbacks, shrimp, cut pinfish and cut ladyfish are the best natural baits, but topwaters early in the morning also work. Sometimes, when the bite’s slow, you might have to try different types of tactics. One thing I try is slowly reeling a nose hooked greenback thru the water—often, this triggers a bite.

We’re seeing some cobia around the Bay. Most are cruising markers or following large rays or manatees around the flats. If you’re mackerel fishing and you have a chum bag over the side, be sure to keep your eyes open for one or two to show up around your motor in your chum slick.

Tarpon are being found at the Skyway right now. Chum with threadfins or large greenbacks on a slow in or outgoing tide. Drift a couple of cut chunks of bait back in your slick and prepare for a strike.