Tampa Fishing Reports

2017 July Tampa Fishing Report

Summer is in full swing now and water temperatures have responded accordingly, pushing well into the high eighties.  Big numbers of large snook are now in residence along the beautiful white sand beaches of Pinellas County and should remain there through the month. For those in pursuit of the largest specimens, night time may be the best time.  Once a snook passes thirty three inches, it is safe from everyone except those who harvest these fish illegally. (Should you see any of this activity, please call the FWC hotline immediately at 888 404-3922). This being the case, these overslot fish will continue to be caught and released and tend to learn a few lessons every time this happens.  Over time, it is logical to expect that these big females change their habits in favor of self preservation.  These habit changes would include 1) feeding less when fishing pressure is greatest...day time. 2) inhabiting areas that are deeper where they are less visible...deep cuts and swashes and 3) eating larger baits...sometimes very large baits...making for less frequent, more productive feeding events.  Catching a fish that exceeds forty inches during daylight hours in this region is not common.  The odds of doing this in low light conditions or after
hours are greatly enhanced. Go late, fish big tides, use large baits, be patient. 

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Tampa Fishing for beach snook, day or night, is the fact that these fast, exciting fish can be landed on very light tackle.  Most areas holding these fish now are relatively snag free meaning tackle as light as 10 lbs test can be used.  Using a 4000 series reel, a 7.5 foot medium action rod, 10 pound braided line and 30 lbs leader will get the job done.  Many snook break offs on the beach are the result of protracted fights where the fish simply wears through the leader.  A snook's small, bass like teeth serve as sandpaper.  Every time a fish changes directions, this line slides across these teeth, shaving away at the leader. For this reason, using less than 30 lbs test leader significantly reduces the odds of landing larger fish which, of course, tend to put up a longer battle. If fish are feeding aggressively and are being lost, moving to 40 lbs test is certainly logical.  Also important is hook size.  Remember that hook size is determined less by the size of the fish as it is by the bait being used.  Where a 2/0 or 3/0 hook will work fine for a large whitebait, a 4/0 or 5/0 hook might be more appropriate for a larger bait like a grunt, shad, ladyfish or mullet. These larger baits minimize the gap available between bait and the hook point.  As a result, a smaller hook used on a big bait will often be driven into the bait resulting in the target species never actually being hooked.

Seatrout have become a less dependable catch as summer has progressed but redfish have remained a reliable catch on most Tampa Fishing Charters.  It may never get "too hot" to catch a redfish...our most temperature tolerant species. Over the last month, redfish were caught on just about every trip...on some days just a couple, on others over a dozen. All fish were easily in the slot though and some were over. Predictably, catching these fish mid day is generally an in or under cover proposition as they, like us, are seeking cooler locations. As a result, those with the best casting skills will generally have the most successful days.  Another skill that is required when fishing close to cover is fighting fish that run up into the mangroves.  Once a large redfish has gotten up into structure, most anglers instinctively continue to pull, hoping to drag this fish clear.  The is usually not the end result. Seasoned Tampa Fishing Guides will use another approach. Think of cutting a piece of string.  What's the first step? It's to pull the string tight...because then it's easy to cut. Once a redfish makes it's way into cover, and the angler can feel the line rubbing against it, the bail should be opened but light tension should continue to be applied to the line by pinching it between thumb and finger. Should the fish surge, line should be allowed to pass through the anglers fingers but without removing all tension.  Once it stops however, light pressure should be applied in the best direction to "lead" the fish out of cover. A redfish will often stop surging once pressure is removed from the line and will, at least half the time, allow itself to be guided out to open water with just light pressure.  Once the fish is clear of structure, the bail should be flipped over, the angler should point straight at the fish and reel down until line is completely tight and then lift to further move the fish away from structure....bearing in mind that the line has likely been compromised and that only smooth, necessary pressure should be applied to the fish.  It is an art to extract fish this way but the trained angler can save many fish employing this technique.

For those looking for some cooler activities to participate in, try riding the Brew Bus, which tours local microbreweries, something Tampa is becoming quite well known for. Or, if your interest is in some mend bending art, pay the Salvador Dali Museum in St Pete a visit. 

Good luck and good fishing.

 

 

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