Just a reminder–snook, redfish and trout are catch and release only. The water temperatures should start cooling a bit and, when that happens, snook fishing ought to brighten up in Tampa Bay. We’ve maintained decent snook action all summer, and November should turn out nicely. Anglers have been catching impressive quantities on both half and three-quarter day trips, most averaging in the 22 to 28-inch range with several over 30 inches. Artificial lures are a blast, especially if you enjoy matching wits with a line-sider. If not live bait, free-lined or under a cork will always do the trick.
The redfish action was booming in October and should continue right through November. This time of year, the redfish move onto the grass flats. That is when you will see an armada of flats or bay boats chasing them up and down the flats. When this happens, the fish become very skittish and can stop eating. That is why we’ve always preferred finding a few fish feeding quietly by themselves and fish them on our own. Redfish can be picky eaters. So, when they hesitate to take live bait, i.e., greenbacks, plump juicy shrimp or pinfish, we will try a piece of cut bait, i.e., a larger greenback cut in half, or a strip of fresh-cut mullet, bluefish, or ladyfish. Any redfish or snook in the area will pick up the scent, hone in and find it. Sometimes, we also suspend it under a cork letting the scent travel with the current.
The trout bite should continue right into winter, so be prepared for some decent trout fishing action. Drift any broken-bottom grass flat, casting free-lined live bait or putting it under a popping cork. Here is a novel idea. Try casting artificial lures while using light action spinning tackle and soft plastic baits. You will have a ball catching and releasing this beautiful Tampa Bay fish. Remember, trout are one of our most fragile species: whenever possible, please handle it using a de-hooker tool and never bring them into the boat, if you can avoid it.
Schools of mackerel, bluefish, yellowtail jacks, and ladyfish should still be chasing bait around the Bay. As you are cruising around, watch for diving birds. Find the birds, and you’ve found feeding fish. Set up a drift near the activity and get ready for some fast, furious and drag-screaming action. I suggest a minimum of 60-pound Seaguar leader and long shank 2/0 Daiichi hooks. If the bite is on, bring plenty of leader and hooks and be prepared to retie.
Always be prepared for the occasional cobia or shark. Have a heavier rig ready to toss a small pinfish to a passing cobia. If you are doing any chumming, it doesn’t take much to get some sharks interested. There are usually plenty of smaller blacktip sharks around, but a larger cut-bait like a ½ juicy Spanish mackerel free-lined in the current on heavier tackle usually does the trick.
Mangrove snapper are excellent eating fish. They are all over the Bay and not bashful about eating small greenbacks or shrimp. You must be quick, or they’ll clean your hook before you know it. If you feel the bump and do not set the hook, at that exact instant, you might as well reel up, because your bait is gone. Please check myfwc.com for the proper hooks for snapper fishing.