2008 Fishing Report Archive

By December 31, 2008Fishing Reports

10-15-2008 – Good fall bite

It’s really been a cool feeling in the morning. Literally. Instead of getting into the boat at 6am to catch bait, already soaked with sweat, I’ve been putting on long sleeve shirts for the ride out. Sure it’s been getting warm in the afternoon but the cooler night time air temperatures have dropped the water temperature. The fish have taken notice and they are much more comfortable right now. What does that mean to us? It means they are eating and we are catching.

The redfish bite has really been good on incoming water in the New Port Richey and Tarpon Springs areas. Sardines are still available for bait and they have proven to be the key to entice bites. The snook bite hasn’t been on fire but the snook we are catching are large. We’ve caught a few from 30″ to 36″ long this past week. The trout bite should be picking up any day nopw on the flats and there’s plenty of spanish mackerel to go around if you like fighting the toothy critters.

I know school is back in session and vacations are over for the most part, but you’re really missing out on some of the best fishing of the year if you’re put a trip off until later. This is my favorite month of the year to fish the Tampa Bay area and I’ll be out there catching fish… with or without you. So don’t make me catch them all by myself. Let’s go.

8-25-2008 – Redfish Revival

For the past month, redfish seemed to have been acting like typical backsliders. They would be out of sorts for 3-5 charters and then every once in a while they would show up to be redeemed for their sins. The sin, of course, is that of not being easily caught.  However, this past week we’ve seen the burgeoning promise of a full blown redfish revival in the Tampa Bay area.

It happens every fall that these fish will group up in large schools and eat like there’s no tomorrow. And usually about his time of year we get semi-frequent previews to this autumn redfish gathering.

Late last week fishing charters in Tarpon Springs got a few glimpses of some very hot, but rather short, redfish bites. Mixed in with this were catches of spanish mackerel, small grouper, trout, and a snook or two.  Bait in that area has begun to really come on strong and it has gotten larger. The bait hatchlings from the summer are growing up and they are everywhere around Anclote Key.

In St. Pete, where the “revival” has first sprung up, the bait is still very small. But the redfish, eager to regain favor with us fisherman, are willing consumers of the tiny offering. Over the last two days we’ve landed nearly 100 fish and they have ranged in size from 24″ to 30″. Fishing the small baits under a cork near mangrove islands has been the ticket.

Look for more redfish to join the revival as fall approaches. If everything shapes up nicely, we could have a full blown awakening.

8-3-2008 – Mack Attack!

It’s that time of year again and the veracious toothy critters known as spanish mackerel are ruling Tampa Bay. Everywhere you look you can see them thrashing the surface as they crash small baitfish. They roam Tampa Bay is packs of 100+ fish or more ganging up on the recent hatch of sardines. When the sardine and the mackerel collide, it’s a major mismatch and the mackerel win out hands down.

That’s when we arrive with a livewell full of their favorite prey and “crash” the party. Their hapless prey is now disguised as such but this time rigged with barbed hooks. When strike first occurs, the sound of the drag on the reels sings out and it’s game on.

When we get these awesome predators chummed up behind the boat we can catch one after another. Sometime, such as today you have to actually chase the schools of mackerel down and cast into them before they vanish (only to pop up again 100 yards down the beach).

Over the past week we’ve shifted our focus from an inconsistent redfish and snook bite to a fast and furious mackerel bite. Fall is coming soon and the redfish will have their day before long but for now the mackerel rule the bay.

These fish are ranging from 12″ to 26″ and are great table fair when smoked or grilled. They are famous for their initial drag screaming run and their tenacious attack on the bait.

We’re still getting a few redfish and snook but you have to hit the tiodes just right. Mangrove snapper are still getting on line and sharks are on fire if you want to target them this time of year. Look for the inshore “big three” (redfish, snook and trout) to pick back up when the weather begins to show signs of fall approaching. For now, it’s an all out “Mack Attack.”

7-19-2008 – Tarpon Springs Redfish

While fishing in the Tarpon Springs area this pas wee, he kids stole the show. They out fished “dad” and “mom” at every turn. and it didn’t matter if the kids were 10 years old or 20 years old. For what ever reason the “kids” had the hot hand.

The bite has been a little inconsistent which is sort of common this time of year. For every 4 charters we have that rank in the really good column we have one that defies the status quo and is really slow. That’s just the “straight talk express” as John McCain would say. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that we’re going to guarantee that we set records right now. Every day is a little different than the last. I had one day this week where we caught 75 redfish, one where we caught 40 redfish, one day where we caught 10 redfish, and one day where we caught 0. Thankfully, on the slow redfish days, we’ve had a smattering of snook, trout (although kinda’ small, which is normal this time of year), snapper, and grouper thrown in the mix. The good news is that we’re having 4 good-great days for every slow day.

Redfish are the hot target right now. I look for the bite to get better as fall approaches. That’s when they will begin to school up in large groups. Just recently I’ve seen my first school of reds numbering in the thousands since March.

One thing is for sure, you can’t catch fish sitting on the couch. If you want to do some fish catching soon, you’re best bet will be to get an early start by going with me to catch bait. If bait is easy to get, we could be fishing by 7am which is well before the sun begins to heat the water to temperatures where the fish get uncomfortable.

Let’s go fishing!

7-12-2008 – Here and There

It’s now mid Summer in the Tampa Bay area and the fish and bait are settling down into there normal summertime pattern. Which is, their is no pattern. One day we’ll catch 50 redfish at a spot and go back the next and only catch 5. Then we’ll go hit another spot and pick up 10 more fish, but they won’t be at that spot the next day. Don’t get me wrong, we’re catching fish. The thing is that everyday is different right now. One day we get reds over here and the next we get snook over there. One day we catch  10 fish and the next we catch 65 fish. This is typical this time of year as rain, cloud cover and tide phases all effect the water temperature and flow from day to day. The fish are constantly moving to get into a place where they are comfortable.

Over the past couple of weeks, the best bet has been mackerel and redfish. Snook are ever present on the beaches, but their appetite is inconsistent and finicky. The trout bite is typically slow this time of year, but we’re picking up a few here and there. The mangrove snapper are starting to turn on and that bite will only get better between now and the end of September. If you’re looking for table fare, as well as a great fighting fish on light tackle, snapper is the way to go. We’ve been getting snapper to 3 pounds, but my fishing logs say that the 5-7lbers are supposed to be getting hooked up consistently soon. In the last couple of years limiting out on 4-7lb snapper was a breeze from late July to early September in Tampa Bay.

6-15-2008 – Hooking Kids Up!

Mathew was in town with his parents Steven and Tara and they were patient with me as it took some time to find the redfish I had seen a few days before. Once we found them it was game on. They were hanging out on a grass flat near the beach and these guys were big. We pulled out fish from 24″-35″. The bite was great but slowed when dolphins showed up looking for the same game we were there for. But the bite shut off completely when an inconsiderate boater drove right over the fish. Oh well, at least we pulled in a dozen or so big redfish before the party crashers arrived.

Then I met up with Doug and his son Billy. The plan was to get a late start to catch the outgoing tide for big snook on the beach in Tarpon Springs. The tide wasn’t going to start leaving until about an hour into the charter so I decided on checking in on a spot that was on fire about 3 weeks ago but had slowed down over the past two weeks. When we arrived Doug made mention of all of the mullet that were there and I knew that was a good sign. But, the last three times I had checked on the spot the fish we were looking for hadn’t been there so my optimism was held off by my skepticism.

Either way, I decided to give it a little while because the tides were right for it. We used the PowerPole to stake out and I threw out some chummers and Doug and Billy threw out some baits with hooks in them. 10 minutes went by and no action. We moved down the shoreline about 75 yards and repeated the procedure. This time the water erupted. The “chummers” (baitfish I throw out wounded without hooks) were getting crushed. The first bait that hit the water was jumped on by a nice redfish and for the next 2 hours it was double hookup after double hookup. We managed somewhere between 40 and 50 redfish and 2 nice snook before the water left to the point where we needed to leave. We then headed to the beach to look for some monster snook and we saw a few and hooked two pigs but it just wasn’t meant to be. Both fish spit the hook.

Then the “kids at heart” hooked up with me in St. Pete. It was a business trip for them but you couldn’t tell. They were just excited to be on the water and away from their cell phones. The bite was slow but we went quality over quantity with redfish to 33″ boated.

About a week and a half ago the bite got weird and really slowed down. I’m beginning to think it was do to the lack of rain. But now that we are having these afternoon showers the bite is really starting to pick up. Hopefully we’ll stay in this typical summertime pattern of sunny skies through the first half of the day and rain in the afternoon. It keeps the salinity levels right for the fish and the water from getting too hot.

6-7-2008 – 100th Charter of the Year

This past week Capt. Clay Fishing Charters just passed the 100th Charter mark for the year! It’s a little late this year, and I attribute that to the economy, but it is still something I mark with gratitude each year. It’s an honor to me to take so many of you fishing here in the Tampa Bay area each year. The hundreds of smiles, photos of fish, and stories that come from you guys fishing with me are things that really keep me going. On with the report…

The kids stole the show this week. They out fished “dad” and “mom” at every turn. It didn’t matter if the kids were 10 years old or 20 years old. For what ever reason the “kids” had the hot hand.

The bite has been a little inconsistent which is sort of common this time of year. for every 4 charters we have that rank in the really good column we have one that defies the status quo and is really slow. That’s just the “straight talk express” as John McCain would say. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that we’re going to guarantee that we set records right now. Every day is a little different than the last. I had one day this week where we caught 75 redfish, one where we caught 40 redfish, and one day where we caught 0 redfish. We’ve had a smattering of snook, trout (although kinda’ small, which is normal this time of year), snapper, and grouper thrown in the mix.

The good news is that we’re having 4 good-great days for every slow day. Which, if I must be very honest, is better than the reports that I am getting from my other guide buddies. So God must be smiling on us as we have been doing rather well for the most part.

Redfish are the hot target right now. I look for the bite to get better as fall approaches. That’s when they will begin to school up in large groups. Just recently I’ve seen my first school of reds numbering in the thousands since March. That’s a good sign and a good indicator that we MIGHT have an early fall which could lead to ridiculous numbers of redfish catches soon.

One thing is for sure, you can’t catch fish sitting on the couch. If you want to do some fishing catching soon, you’re best bet will be to get an early start by going with me to catch bait. If bait is easy to get we could be fishing by 7am which is well before the sun begins to heat the water to temperatures where the fish get uncomfortable.

Let’s go fishing!

5-24-2008 – “Red-Iculous”

B.J. and his two sons scheduled a charter with me early in the week and they really wanted to do some tarpon fishing in St. Petersburg. We met at the dock at 7am and headed out to pick up some bait and then swing by the Skyway Bridge for some tarpon fishing. Things didn’t turn out as we planned but the result of our changed plans was what I have decided to call, “red-iculous”.

The original plan, as mentioned earlier, was for tarpon. The torrential down pours, high winds and threat of lightning shut us down on our first attempt of the week. We tried, through one quagmire, to fish for the “poons” by the bridge on the first day but the threat of a much larger storm forced us off of the water by 10am. Not wanting to give up, B.J. said they could come back later in the week, and I did have one other day open, so we reconvened two days later for another shot.

On the second go around I asked if they would be game for going after redfish for the first part of the day and tarpon the second. The redfish bite the day before had been awesome and I figured we could get some catching in before we tried for a silver king. They said , “let’s do it”.

So after catching bait, we headed for a spot where the bronze bombers had cooperated all week. When we first got there I told them they we may not hit real pay dirt for a couple of hours because the tide wouldn’t really be right until about 11am. The bite did turn out to be slow for the first part of the morning but we did manage about 6 redfish before all heck broke loose. Just when I was about to give up I made one more toss of chum into the water and that’s when the water erupted with all too familiar sounds of redfish crushing wounded sardines on the surface of the still water.

The frenzy was so intense that the natural bottom feeders were actually coming completely out of the water to annihilate the intentionally wounded baitfish that I had thrown out in large quantities. Once we sent out the same baitfish armed with hooks the bite was on; and oh was it on. We had at least one fish on for every minute of almost an hour and a half and we had more double hook ups than I could count and several triple hookups to boot.

The bite finally slowed to slightly under a break neck pace and we decided to try for tarpon. The boys had their fill of bronze and wanted to upgrade to silver. We headed over to the bridge to get some threadfins for bait and while catching them we saw a few tarpon crushing baits so we stayed right there and tried for an hour. Unfortunately, even though we saw several more tarpon, we just couldn’t get a bite. Then we headed out to Egmont and once again the tarpon showed themselves to us but they just wouldn’t take a bait with a hook in it.

The full moon may have had something to do with out lack of silver but thankfully we locked up a solid bronze finish for a charter that looked to be doomed by weather. It turned out that their perseverance and patience was what it took to have a “red-iculous” day.

5-20-2008 – If a Picture is Worth 1000 Words…

May is just one of those months. Whether we’re running fishing charters in Tarpon Springs, Clearwater or St. Petersburg, you really can just about catch anything this time of year. This past week we caught redfish, snook, trout, sharks, tarpon, grouper, snapper… and the list goes on.

The way I see it, I can tell you what we did this week or I can let you see what we did this past week. I’m going to go with the latter option for the most part.

Bait has been abundant on the flats and around the bridges and we’ve been loading up on it to insure we have plenty of bait to make it through the day. We use a lot of it to chum with to get the bite going well and then the rest of it gets eaten when we throw it out there on a hook. The snook, trout and redfish bite has been really good in Tarpon Springs. The grouper bite has been good in Tampa Bay, and the Tarpon are all over St. Pete right now. So as for what type of fishing we’ll be doing next, well, you can just about pick your poison.

5-8-2008 – Silver in the Shade

I’ve got some upcoming tarpon fishing charters in St. Petersburg and I’ve been so busy catching redfish, snook and trout in Tarpon Springs that I haven’t had a chance to try for tarpon yet. So, yesterday I had a rare day off and I called my good friend Jody to see if he wanted to go tarpon fishing. He said he was game.

I haven’t been tarpon fishing since last year and I needed a good day or two under my belt before I was going to be running tarpon charters. So Jody and I met at Maximo park and headed out to catch bait. It wasn’t long before we saw birds working the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and we pulled over to take a look. There was bait everywhere and it was just the type of bait we were looking for. The pelicans were gorging themselves on large threadfin herring. Jody grabbed the net and said that he’d make the first throw. That 1st throw would be all we needed as he hauled in 25lbs of bait. So after a total of five minutes of bait hunting we were headed off to chase after bigger game. Tampa Bay’s very own precious “silver”. Tarpon.

We set up on the South side of the main span of the Skyway on the last of the incoming tide but we weren’t seeing any tarpon rolling. We kept ourselves busy catching grouper and mangrove snapper and we decided to headed to the North end of the main span for the tide change.

When we set up shop on the North end of the bridge the tide began to turn.  It looked like a the water came to life. I’ve never seen so much bait flipping on the surface in my life and we both noticed that it was staying in the shadow of the bridge. Shortly after the bait showed up we saw the first tarpon crash the surface eating the bait. 10 second after that my drag started to scream. Tarpon on! All heck broke loose as Jody tried to throw off the anchor and start the motor. All the while 200 yards of line was leaving my reel at a break neck pace. We finally freed ourselves of the anchor and the chase was on. Luckily the beast headed towards Tampa and left the sharp barnacles of the bridge behind. After a 15 minute fight the fish was brought boat side and and the first tarpon of the year was photographed on my boat.

We managed a few more hookups but these fish were smarter and ran us off on pilings. We followed the fish by staying in the shadow of the bridge.  That’s where the bait stayed and with it the tarpon. It wasn’t a banner tarpon day but they are there and it was great to break the seal on another tarpon season.

5-4-2008 – Almost Perfect

I’ll tell you what… It was almost a perfect week. We absolutely hammered fish here in Tarpon Springs this week. We had inshore slams on 3 fishing charters and we even had a 100+ fish day on another. With the exception of one day, when dolphins and other boats ruined the party for us, it was down right laughable how many fish we caught.

Early in the week we managed 20-30 reds and trout a day on live greenbacks fished under bobbers. Those charters also managed to get a few bonnet head sharks even though their “all knowing captain” told them that they wouldn’t eat live bait. Snook took a little bit of a break this week due to a mild cold front that dropped water temps by 7 degrees.

Then after the first two charters, the flood gates opened. It doesn’t always come together like it did this week but when it does it really is fun. Mark from Ohio was in town for a business convention and he needed some time on the water to just relax and get away from work. So he hired me for two days of fishing to take a vacation from the phone and email. I don’t know if he got to relax much but on the first day he only caught about 20 redfish so I guess he had a little time to collect his thoughts between bites and to chill out a little. On day two with Mark, David A. Brown, a well known outdoor/photographer asked to catch a ride with us to get some pictures for a few articles he has coming up. Mark was very kind to allow David to ride along. We must have found some really vain fish because they were jumping at the chance to have their photo taken. We must have boated 75 fish with a good mix of them being redfish and trout.

Then yesterday we had the best trip of the year (as far as numbers go). Kevin and his son Mark wanted to try their hand at inshore fishing and we hit things just right. They were happy participants of my first 100 fish day of the year. It was pretty much an equal mixture of redfish and trout. The reds were lower to mid slot sized but the Trout were all jumbos. 20-24″ were the average sizes of these snaglge toothed beasts.

Then today was the slow day of the week. Thomas and Thomas caught 5 redfish, 1 trrout, 2 ladyfish, and one mackerel. The spot that had been so productive the day before had been bombarded by boats and dolphins and the fish just wouldn’t cooperate after such disturbances.

Overall it was probably the best week of the year. Bait is on the beach, fish are chewing, and the weather is nothing short of awesome. If you’ve been thinking about a fishing charter do it now before the weather gets to hot. The fish are biting and the tides are good. See you soon!

4-28-2008 – My Boat Should Have Holes in it!

Because the fish tried their hardest to chew the bottom out of it! Some of the best fishing of the year (thus far) was done on the last 4 Tarpon Springs and Clearwater Fishing charters.  These charters boated 30+ redfish, 30+ trout, and a few snook on average. All I can say is wow. Once the water warmed up after the last cold front, the fish went nuts. It really was an awesome week.

It’s springtime and the fish tend to move from one spot to another at the drop of a hat. This happened on Thursday. I worked my way slowly into a spot that had been very productive for 2 weeks straight and when we got there the fish were gone. Instead of just leaving and going to spot “B” I asked my clients if they could be patient and let me look for these fish before we give up on the area. I stayed on the trolling motor for almost a 1/4 mile and just when I was ready to give up, I saw them. They were sitting on the sandy edge of a mangrove shoreline. It was a mix of redfish and snook. We used the Power Pole to stake out and almost immediately started catching fish. The best part about this particular area is that we’ve been able to fish it for 4 days and even through the busy weekend, when everyone who owns a boat is out on the water, we were still enjoying the fish all by ourselves.

Bait has been plentiful and that has really helped turn otherwise average days in to extraordinary days. We use the excess bait to chum the waters and really get the bite going. We’re catching these fish on a shallow flat with no deep water within 1/2  mile. No structure or anything noticeable to hold these fish here. I think it’s just a stretch of shoreline that get’s good tidal flow and happens to be loaded with bait.

The three most notable hook ups of the week were when Jim, Eric, Orin, and Henry all hooked up on redfish at the same time, when 12 year old Bridget landed a 32″ snook all by herself, and when I took my family out after my Sunday charter my son hooked and landed his 2nd ever redfish by himself.

I expect the fishing to stay good all through the beginning of summer. Spring time really is an awesome time to fish here in the Tarpon Springs and Clearwater areas. Bait is everywhere and fish are hungry for it. The weather is usually very mild and the sun isn’t scalding. It’s the perfect time of year to catch fish.

4-23-2008 – “You’re covered in blood and you stink!”

“You’re covered in blood and you stink!” That’s what my poor wife told me the other night when I got home from a very successful Tarpon Springs fishing charter. I told her, “That’s what happens when your clients catch a lot of fish that taste good. Somebody has got to ‘clean’ them” I still don’t know why they call it “cleaning fish”. I make a mess when I’m “preparing” fish for for my clients. There’s nothing “clean” about it.  Anyway… on to the fishing report…

I had 6 fishing charters in 5 days last week. I’ve been in Apollo Beach, Ruskin, Tampa Bay, Clearwater, and Tarpon Springs. The fish have been in all of those places too. We had different types of fishing and caught different types of fish with each area we fished this past week. It seems like we caught every kind of inshore fish available. Snook, redfish, trout, cobia, spanish mackerel, bluefish, sharks, and one day we even ventured a couple of miles offshore and caught some grouper and mangrove snapper.

The only lull in the action we had was for a couple of days following a cold front last week. We still managed to catch some nice fish but the bite was noticeably off.  By the end of the week the water temperature in Tarpon Springs was back up to 75 degrees and the bite was back to normal.

Having a livewell full of greenbacks gave us an opportunity every day to do some heavy chumming and it proved to be the key to success each trip. Lately, instead of throwing out live greenbacks for chum, we’ve been cutting them up. This way the chum won’t swim away and have the fish follow it. By cutting them up and throwing them out, the chum stays in one spot and so do the fish. This has been especially helpful with the redfish.

Later in the week we were able to sight fish for cobia. One day we saw 10 cobia and we managed to hook 4 of them and land 2. They were following large stingrays in very shallow water. If you pitched a bait anywhere close to them, they were all over it. They were so aggressive that on one occasion a cobia ate the bobber before it ate the bait.

The rest of this week should be great. We’ve got good weather forecasted and the tides are pretty good. The flats and beaches are alive with fish and bait activity. All we have to do is get out there and get ’em.

4-15-08 – Game On!

The fish are in a full time feeding frenzy in the Tarpon Springs and Clearwater areas right now. We’ve had a few fishing charters this week that have boated 50+ redfish! On top of that we’ve been able to get a few snook and several nice trout. Spring is in full swing and the weather, for the most part, has been awesome.

Tom and his wife Robin joined me for a fishing charter last week. They wanted to bring their daughter but unfortunately she wasn’t feeling well. We’ll get her out there next time. The fishing was great and Tom and Robin boated several nice keeper redfish.

Then on Friday I was invited to guide a group for the Grand Slam Charity tournament in Tampa Bay. The day started out slow but we did end up doing pretty well with an “inshore slam” that totaled 66″. Our trout and redfish were really nice but our snook was on the small side and that kept us from having a shot at winning the tournament.

On Saturday, Phil and his son Nathan, joined me for a father son outing in Tarpon Springs. What a fish catching bonanza that was. We started the day catching bait. I had told them to meet me early and we’d catch bait together. That’s something I rarely do (I usually catch bait prior to pick up) but bait had been so easy every other day last week that I told them if they came along that we’d be done catching bait in 15 minutes and we could get an early start on the fish catching. Boy was I wrong… bait took 2 hours to catch. They were patient and I told them that anytime bait is that hard that the fishing is bound to be great. And it was.

Nathan put on a redfishing clinic. I don’t think we could have kept track of how many fish he caught even if we tried. Phil caught his fair share as well and after they boated about the 30th fish I told them I wanted to catch 1. So I baited up, threw out, and hooked a fish almost instantly. I unhooked the fish, put the rod up, and watched them continue to catch more redfish. Nathan did end up with a really nice snook that he caught on a cut greenback but by that time my camera had died so I didn’t get a pic of it. Hopefully they send me the pics they took with their camera.

Anyway, I love spring time. We had one small cold front that passed by yesterday and I can only imagine that it must be our last one of the year. The fishing should continue to be great the rest of the month. The keys to success right now are making sure you have a lot of bait, fishing where their moving water, and fishing around mullet schools. If you can find that you’re bound to be into some good fishing action.

4-5-2008 -“Red” Hot Fishing in Tarpon Springs Florida

Apart from the few “good” days we’ve had lately, the rest of them have been “great” We’ve had 20+ redfish days with 20+ trout days and a few snook and cobia brought to the boat over the past week. Fishing Charters in Tarpon Springs and Clearwater have been blessed this past week with great weather and even better fish catching.

It’s been a long week and I was booked for almost all of it so you’ll have to forgive me for not being able to remember everyone’s names. But early in the week Jeff and his son redeemed a gift certificate for a fishing charter and it was fun to watch his son catch his first redfish. I think we got another young one hooked on fishing. The best bite this day was early and it was fast and furious as our first several baits were consumed by hungry redfish. Things slowed down a little but we managed a few bites throughout the rest of the day.

Then Steven peacock and some of his buddies from work decided to have a “corporate meeting” on the water. It was a good decision as much was accomplished. The group managed to fill the cooler with large sea trout and their limit of redfish. They even landed their limit of redfish several times over and released 1 cobia and snook. That’s what I call a business meeting worth attending.

On Thursday, I was part of a group charter set up by my good friend Capt. Greg DeVault. I had the opportunity to fish with Tony, Mike, and Vinny. We slaughtered redfish that day and lost two MONSTER snook to the mangroves. We made a good decision not to leave a spot too early. We almost left before the bite started but decided to stay 5 more minutes. That made all the difference as once the bite started it was redfish after redfish for 2 hours. There were lots of smile on the boat that day and lots of drag screaming action. Some times it pays of big time to be patient with a productive spot.

Then yesterday was the one exception to the week. It was slow. But we fished an area I hadn’t been to in a few weeks so I knew it was going to be tough because we’d have to search for fish. Chuck and I go way back. When I first finished playing baseball with the Yankees Chuck hired me to coach private baseball lessons for his son’s baseball team. He’s really gotten into fishing and he found out I was a full time fishing guide through another guide and gave me a call. I showed him several spots in St. Pete but the high winds and my lack of fishing time down there lately had me a little off my game. We still caught fish but just not the numbers I would have liked.

All in all it was an awesome week. The fishing continues to get better and better and the weather continues to get better as well. Yesterday when I was near the Sunshine Skyway I could swear I smelled tarpon in the air. I know there are a few around and that they will be here in full force soon. I can’t wait. I’ll be chasing down 150lb fish before I know it. Hopefully you’ll be on the front of the boat, holding onto the rod for dear life as the “silver king” tries to drag us to Mexico. 🙂

3-4-2008 – Jump on in… The Water’s Getting Warm

We had a cold front early in the week and the water temps dropped drastically. Thankfully, the air temps are back up and so are the water temps. As of today the temps are flirting with 70 degrees in New Port Richey and Tarpon Springs. That has the bait showing up as well as everything that eats it. Redfish, trout, mackerel, and cobia were all caught on charters this week and I’m looking for more of the same this next week.

With water temperatures switching from 70 degrees to 52 degrees then back to 70 degrees, we’ve really had to stay on our game. The fish were on the move and we rarely fished the same spots twice throughout the course of the week. Shortly after the cold front we had two slow days but now were back to normal and the redfish were chewing nicely. Fish to 7lbs were caught on scaled sardines. Though the schools of fish haven’t quite bunched up together like the week before we still found schools of fish today in groups of 30 to 60 fish.

Another thing that is working in our favor is that the wind has laid down in the last couple of days. It is also forecasted to be pretty calm this week. That makes finding fish easier and it also makes casting to the fish easier.

This past week was good but this next week should be great. Keep tabs on the site and look for a great fishing report next week.

3-21-2008 – Brown Bomber are Back!

John told me that he hadn’t been fishing in 30 years, that Ralph was an avid angler, and that Joe and Jordan hadn’t really done much fishing before. I knew they were in for some fun but even I didn’t know how much. My recent fishing charters in Tarpon Springs have been doing real well on large trout and spanish mackerel with a few redfish thrown in for good measure. But today, the “Brown Bombers” crashed the party.

I picked up my party in Tarpon Springs at the Anclote boat ramps at 9am with 2 live wells full of greenbacks. After introductions we headed off to a flat in about 5 feet of water that had been producing some trout and tons of spanish mackerel. The mackerel have been really big and they’ve been putting up great fight, zinging drag and all.

It wasn’t long before the first fish was boated. I think it took all of 20 seconds after the first bait hit the water for one of the guys to pull in a small trout. After that it was mackerel bite after mackerel bite. The only problem is the mackerel were hook shy. they kept slashing at the bait just behind the hook. So I think we landed only one fish for every 6 or 7 that we hooked but the action was pretty steady none the less.

Then all of a sudden John hooks a fishing that is just screaming drag off of the reel. I’m thinking this is an absolute monster mackerel but to my surprise, when the fish first showed itself, it didn’t have that tell tale silver flash of a mackerel. Instead, it was brown. It was COBIA brown! Sweet! The first cobia of the year! At first I thought it was a fluke but about 30 minutes later John was wrestling with his second cobia. The one of the other guys had one on but it got away.

What a great day. Cobia are a great sign that the flats are coming alive. I saw bait flickering everywhere. As you travel from spot to spot, keep a keen eye out for those “brown bombers” on sorte missions across the flats. Have either a live bait, pinfish or green back, at the ready when using live bait and it wouldn’t hurt to always have a Berkley Powerbait Eel rigged on a jig head at all times. Especially when catching bait early in the mornings. Some of my most frequent visits from cobia are while I’m catching bait. Every time you catch bait you are chumming the waters around you with the bait that gets loose from your net so be on the ready for a cobia to show up.

3-18-2008 – It’s Officially Spring!

With the wind blowing so much this week, the redfish bite has been a little off. But, the good news is that sea trout, spanish mackerel, and bluefish have really been making a great showing. Not just in number but in size as well. Tarpon Springs is starting to see bait flood the flats and that has turned the trout bite on and brought the mackerel back to the flats.

As I’ve mentioned in recent previous reports, the wind can make things difficult when fishing for redfish. We’ve had front after front come through and it seems to have pushed the redfish off of their usual shallow flats. If we get a few calm days in a row they should return and the bite should be on again.

Water temperatures hit 70 degrees this week on the flats and the snook have taken notice. I’ve seen snook near creek mouths and river mouths and even a few out by the islands. That bite is set to go off big time.

We had a few 40+ trout days this past week with some fish reaching 6.5 lbs. We caught the most fish on 1/8th oz. jigheads with either Gulp Shrimp or Exude Darts in light colors. The smaller fish were schooled up in deep troughs but the big fish all came from less than 2 feet of water.

One day this week I loaded the live well with huge greenbacks. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with them since they were too big to use for redfish and trout and the snook weren’t cooperating but then I decided to try a flats where bait had been pretty thick. I threw out a bunch of baits to chum the water and see if anybody was home. It wasn’t long before the chummers were getting crushed by monster mackerel.  We hooked way more than we landed because the toothy critters could cut through my 70lb leader with ease but when we got good hook sets we were treated to some very large mackerel. One of which was over 30 inches long (pictures coming soon).

So if you are fishing on a windy day and you can’t find snook or redfish, try fishing some flats in 4-6 feet of water and see if you can get into some of that fast paced, line zinging, mackerel action.

3-12-2008 – When the Wind Laid Down the Bite Picked Up.

March always seems to be one of the windiest months of the year for the Tampa Bay Area. Fishing is a little more difficult when the wind blows. But, the good news is that when the wind lays down we can find fish and they are hungry. The Tarpon Springs area has some large schools of redfish roaming around and some super sized trout.

The large trout are coming from shallow water. We’ve been getting them up to 23″ but a fellow angler today reported catching 20 trout over 20″ today with the largest being 26″. Smaller trout are in deep cuts through shallow flats and they can be caught by the dump truck load on Bass Assassin 4″ shads or Exude Darts in dark colors. Rig them on a 1/8oz jig head and you are likely to catch one every other cast all day long.

The redfish have moved. If you think you know where they are you are probably wrong. The last couple of days following this latest cold front has brought southerly winds which has pushed greenbacks into the area. As a fellow guide quipped yesterday, “they got a taste of the greenbacks and they are following them.”  My charter yesterday caught their fill of trout by noon and wanted to boat some reds so we went looking… for 4 more hours and couldn’t find them in their recent haunts. I have them again tomorrow so I went out today to look for the reds on my own. What a pleasant surprise today when I not only found the redfish I was looking for but I also found tons of large snook sticking their head out on the flats. I hooked a pig of a snook nearing 35″ and lost him while I tried to land him by myself without a net. The water temperature topped 70 degrees and that spells springtime snook blitzing. Hopefully we won’t  get too many more cold fronts. If we don’t, the snook bite should really go off.

Look for redfish to be moving around following the bait and trout to be just about everywhere you find bait as well. The big trout will be shallow in the afternoons on high tides and the reds will be in moving water along deeper shorelines which is where the baitfish tend to congregate this time of year. You might have to look real hard to see them as they might be in water up to 4 feet deep. Throw Bass Assassin shad style jerk baits or Exude Darts or RT Slugs in dark colors on jig heads or if you can find greenbacks you might really whack them.

3-3-2008 – Instant Hookup

I knew it was gonna’ be a little windy for the fishing charter with Chris, Mike, and Jess in Tarpon Springs. I just didn’t know how windy it was gonna’ get. I was hoping that the wind would hold off long enough for us to get on the redfish bite that has been so good for so long. When we pulled up to the first spot I could see the fish busting baits on the point of an oyster bar. This is a good sign. It means that we’ve found fish and they were hungry. This had me excited and I quickly set the Power Pole to stop the boat from moving and hastily baited hooks and got them in the water.

It wasn’t long after the first bait was in the water that Jess was hooked up with her first redfish ever. It put up a nice fight and even pulled a good bit of drag. Shortly after taking pictures of that fish Mike had a really nice trout on. It was such a nice trout that I assumed, during half the fight, that it was a redfish. Both fish ate greenbacks fished under a cork.

Shortly after that, the wind started to blow and when I say blow I mean howl. We chop on the water made it hard to see the fish when they were in the water and the only time we saw the two schools of redfish there, they were so close to the boat that they spooked. I decided to leave that flat in search of other fish hoping that we could find some hiding on the lee side of some islands that wouldn’t be so spooky.

It was tough the rest of the day. The wind, more than anything, can really make finding fish hard. It puts a chop on the water, it can muddy the water up, and it can even hold a tide out and keep it from coming in. Luckily, at the last spot of the day we got into some more trout and finished the day strong with everybody catching fish.

Spring is coming and these cold fronts should be gone soon. With that you can bet on calmer weather and more consistent fishing. Not that it hasn’t been pretty consistent now but each cold front brings high winds, temperature drops, and tougher fishing conditions for a day or two. I’ll be glad when the fronts are gone.

2-23-2008 -From Poland to Tarpon Springs Flats

Andrew was in America this week for the first time. He was here on business but he’s an avid angler and wanted to try his hand at redfish while here. He scheduled two fishing charters with me here in the Tampa Bay area while on his visit. The first day we decided to fish near St. Petersburg. I had been on some really big trout and a good number of redfish there this week so things were looking good for the first charter. Unfortunately, the wind switched directions and doubled in speed from the day before. It made finding redfish tough but the trout and bluefish were very willing.

But, the big prize Andrew was after was redfish. So, on day two, I asked him to meet me in Tarpon Springs where I have been very productive on redfish for months. We met at the dock at 7am and the wind was howling. Fog had set in and my XM Radar on the boat said rain was eminent. After about 30 minutes of getting beat up by the waves near Anclote, I told him that if he really wanted to catch a redfish then he should go back to the hotel for a few hours and wait for the rain to pass and then we’d try again.

We reconvened at 1pm and began our hunt for Andrew’s first redfish. The change in the weather over the past few days, combined with the full moon, made finding them tough. All of my favorite spots were bare. Not even the mullet showed themselves. Then when things were looking bleak, I remembered a time just like this last year. The tide was leaving and it was just after a storm that I had found a large number of redfish on a very shallow flat. They poured off of the flat back then heading for deeper water and we picked them off as they went by the boat.  So, even though I hadn’t been there in months I decided to give it a try. We were well rewarded. The wind laid down and the water turned to glass. There they were. We could see the reds pouring off of the flat very easily. We threw pinfish out and it wasn’t long before we were hooking up. Wave after wave of redfish schools kept coming by the boat. it was really an awesome sight. Unfortunately I left my camera at home so hopefully Andrew will send me some pictures to add to this report.

It was a tough couple of days but we were rewarded for our perseverance at the end we saw tons of redfish and caught our fair share. It was a 15 hour day for me but it was well worth it to see the smile on his face and to hear him say that he would be back to do this again.

Fish are on the move and they seem to have bunched up pretty tight. So if you aren’t finding them, keep looking. they didn’t go to Mexico (even though I was beginning to wonder). Cover as much water as you can. Definitely look for mullet. If you don’t see mullet schools you aren’t near the redfish.

Keep fishing. They are out there and there are lots of them. It might take a little work but when you do find them it will be well worth your effort.

2-18-2008 – Two Weeks in Review

What a great couple of weeks we’ve had fishing in the Tarpon Springs, New Port Richey, and Clearwater areas. We’ve had 25+ redfish days along with 40+ trout days and some of the best weather you could ask for in February.

Redfish charters have been pretty consistent and the fish have been easiest to find on low tides. We’ve used live shrimp, pinfish, and greenbacks for bait.

Smaller trout can be had in great numbers in deep cuts found in shallow flats and the larger trout have been caught on those same shallow flats once the tide came in high enough for us to get onto the flats. Trout have been taking live shrimp and Exude jigs fished on 3/8th oz. jig heads. Truth be told, the jigs have produced just as well as live bait. Sometimes better.

Of course, every day hasn’t been a banner day and I don’t want to mislead anyone by saying that it has. The weather and good tides have played a huge part in the success of our trips. Just about every time we had a cold front come through, the bite really slowed down for the following day or two. Though aggravating, this is normal for this time of year and even though these types of days are slow, we still caught fish. Just not in great numbers. When the water temperature drops 5 degrees or more over night, the fish tend to move to different areas and then when you do find them, their appetite isn’t what it was when the water was warmer.

Thankfully, it doesn’t stay cold for long and after fronts pass, the water warms back up and the bite is on again.

Look for fewer strong cold fronts over the next couple of weeks as we head towards springtime. As the water stays warmer, the bite will get even more consistent and the action will be even more steady. Spring is just around the corner and it should be awesome. Redfish will be schooling, snook will be hungry (after being nearly dormant all winter), and the trout will be biting as usual.

1-23-2008 – Fish and Fog

I decided to fish St. Joseph Sound this morning just because I had a few ideas that I wanted to try. I got a late start however because my trailer lights weren’t working. I tried for an hour to get them to work and when sun up came, I just rolled out with them working as best I could get them to.

The scene at the boat ramp was not indicative of what was to come once I ventured a little ways from shore. It was foggy. Not terrible but still a little unnerving as I ran 9 miles South of the ramp. Also, just for a heads up, don’t trust your GPS maps too much in the fog. Mine was about 500 yards off on an island and I came within 25 yards of planting my boat into the island’s North shore before I saw it. My GPS said I was 500+ yards east of the island.

Once I reached my first stretch of shoreline, it didn’t take long to realize that that this was going to be a great “catching” day. In the first ten minutes I saw two schools of redfish and several fish tailing. It wasn’t 5 minutes after the visual confirmations of fish that the situation turned into physical catching of fish. I caught 5 reds in the first 20 minutes using my trusty Exude RT Slug on a weightless Mustad Powerlock hook. Only this time I was trying out a new color that I picked up at Fisherman’s World in Tarpon Springs. The new (to me) color is called Croaker Shad. It’s kind of a tan color with silver and green flash in it. I picked it up because I thought it looked like a good imitation of several kinds of baitfish that are abundant in the winter months here. The redfish seemed to agree with my logic.

After I caught several fish, including 3 trout over 20″, I decided that I just had to get some of these aggressive fish to hit a top water plug. On the third cast the water exploded underneath my plug.  Unfortunately the fish missed all 6 hooks hanging from the bottom of my lure. In fact, the next 10 strikes I got on top water all came up blank. Then I finally hit pay dirt with a nice 24″ red on my Mirr-O-Lure He-Dog plug. The bite lasted until well into the incoming tide and then it shut off around 10:30am.

Once the bite shut down the fog really set in. I had thought that the sun would burn it off but I was wrong. By noon I couldn’t see more than 30 yards.  I decided to head home instead waiting to see if the fog would burn off. Being on the water in the fog is kind of eerie because you lose your sense of direction and you can hear other boats whizzing by you but you can’t see them or the direction they are heading. I just took my time and kept my head on a swivel and made it home in about 45 minute.

It wasn’t a bad day at all. I could have done without the fog but the bite today made it worth it.

1-10-2008 – Full Recovery

Well, we’ve had a few days of warm weather since our severe cold front that killed a lot of fish. The fishing has been getting better by the day and today proved that we’re back to normal, or even better. A buddy of mine called me while I was on the way to the ramp and said that his clients caught over 100 trout this morning before 10am and that the smallest one was 20″! That’s a stellar morning in anybody’s book. Hearing that got me fired up because it made me think that my redfish may be back on some of my go to spots.

I put the boat in in New Port Richey and ran to the first spot. The tide was pretty low but rushing in quickly because of the Southerly wind we had. As I inched my way up on the flat I could see mullet jumping. That was a good sign because a few days ago the mullet had disappeared along with the redfish. A few minutes later I saw the first small pod of over slot redfish. Game on!

I worked that spot and a few others for a little over three hours and saw well over 500 redfish ranging from 20″ to 30+”. I didn’t catch a ton of fish, because I was working the flats over pretty fast and blowing out a lot of fish, but I did manage 6 redfish and one trout. The smallest red was 22″ and the largest was 30″. All were caught on Mangrove Red colored Exude RT Slugs fished on weightless weedless hooks.

I know we have some more cold fronts coming but none look to be as severe as the one we had last week so I remain hopeful that these fish will stick around for a while.

1-8-2008 – Recovering From a Cold Snap

John was in town again visiting with his son Gabe and they wanted to do some fishing. As you know we’ve had a very mild Winter this year and the fishing has been great. That was until this past week’s cold snap. The air temps dropped below freezing and the water temps dropped to about 50 degrees. That was a few days ago and now we’ve had a few days of near 80 degree weather and I was thinking that these fish would be hungry coming out of the cold front we’d just had.

Well, a couple of days ago the flats were devoid of life. No bait, no mullet, no fish to be seen anywhere. Today however, we saw fish but they just weren’t that hungry. I don’t know if it was high pressure or the fact that all the fish that survived the cold snap had plenty to eat because of all of the dead baitfish laying at the bottom of the sea. Either way… the fish didn’t seem to hungry.

We covered a great deal of water and saw many fish but all we managed were 4 redfish and 3 really tiny trout. The reds came on frozen pinfish fished under a cork and the trout came on frozen pinfish fished on a jig head.

Hopefully we’ll get a break from cold fronts for a few days. Our fish could stand the break. Once the free buffet of frost bitten, dead, baitfish dries up and the fish begin to feel comfortable with the water temps again, the bite should take off. Only time will tell.

Either way, I had a great time hanging out with Jon and Gabe again. When we hook up again next, the snook should be heading towards the beach and the reds should be in huge schools.