Tampa Bay offers excellent angling for over 200 species of fish. Tampa Bay starts at the extreme north end above the Hwy 60 Causeway. It ends at the south where it goes under the Skyway Bridge. Pick a good day with a respectable incoming or outgoing tide and plan on catching fish. Many places are fishable from the land for shore anglers and accessible to those who like to wade or use a kayak. There are also many public and private boat ramps located throughout the Bay area for the many anglers with boats. Pictured with the redfish is my good friend Ernie Griffin. Ernie and I fished the Original IFA Redfish Tournaments for many years together.
The Tampa Bay snook bite has been excellent around the mangroves on high water and the grass flats early in the morning. Greenbacks, shrimp, cut pinfish and cut ladyfish are your go-to baits. Or, you can try your hand at something new and catch some snook on artificial lures–especially top waters early in the morning.
Redfish are popping up around the Bay and pushing in as the tide climbs. There is no shortage of large mullet schools, and redfish aren’t far behind. Your bait of choice will be greenbacks, small pinfish, shrimp or cut bait. For those that like pitching soft plastics, you can expect some great action on incoming tides. If you’re lucky to find a school moving around a shoreline, setup and wait–they will move back and forth when feeding. Chasing them causes them to scatter.
The Fort Desoto area is finally 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. Try suspending your bait under a popper cork with a medium split-shot about 8 inches above a 2/0 circle hook. Just find any grass flat, and you should catch all the trout you want this month. Of course, you can always use a topwater popping plug or soft plastic swimbait when fishing broken bottom grass flats with deep potholes.
The mackerel have moved into the Bay. Mackerel make for some exciting and fun fishing, especially for the kids. Look for a school of threadfin herring, start chumming with some cut up scaled sardines (also known as whitebaits) put one on the hook and hold on. I’ve had reports of catches up to 3 and 4 pounds using long shank 2/0 hooks and 50-pound Seaguar Fluorocarbon leader. Try a popping cork and split shot like you would for trout. It works well when the threadfins are thick.
Cobia have been sighted around the Bay cruising markers or following rays and manatees around the flats.
For tarpon, grab a few threadfins or large greenbacks, then slip into one of the bridge slots and chum by cutting some bait into pieces. Then, on a 5/0 circle hook, drift a full-sized threadfin back with the current or drift back a large one cut into chunks.1