"Has Red Tide affected the fishing in your area?" has been the leading question from most customers calling to book a Tampa Fishing Charter in the last month.  Mid summer, Red Tide started down in the Boca Grande Area and, as of the beginning of September, seemed to be staying south of Clearwater.  As of a few weeks ago, there were reports that the near shore reefs inside of five miles...Clearwater and Dunedin in particular.... had been impacted, but the reef just to the north, Tarpon Reef, had not.  A Tampa Fishing Captain visiting Tarpon Reef a few days ago confirmed that there were numerous dead fish around the reef and that Red Tide had shown up there as well...apparently just in the past few days. There is a bright side to this equation, however.  There has been no evidence of red tide on shore or in the intercostal waterway so redfishing and snook fishing remains un-naffected.  Having said this, it is important to note that, as a result of the red tide along the coast, redfish and snook have been closed to harvest by the FWC and will not re-open until May 10th, 2019. Although this may be upsetting to some, many Tampa Fishing Guides feel that the negative business impact will be small and fish stocks will be better off as a result.  

Fall Redfish and Snook Fishing in Clearwater

With water temperatures now closer to 80 degrees than 90, fish activity will certainly increase.  Recent redfish trips have been productive with most fish being in the 19 - 24 inch range. Fishing trips from a few weeks ago yielded numerous over slot fish though so there appear to be both decent size and numbers of fish around. With mountains of small whitebait now available, pinning one on a hook with a split shot and throwing it in against the mangroves will trigger an immediate strike if a fish is in the vicinity.  Although securing quality (big enough) bait can be a challenge, the benefit is that the undersized stuff can be used for chum...pitched at the bushes to pull fish out.  In areas where pinfish are thick, use small pinfish or cut pinfish as the small whitebait will be removed from the hook easily by these abundant pests.

Snook fishing has been holding it's own.  Certainly, there are a lot more 22 - 30 inch fish around than the 32 to 40 inch fish of summer...but they still provide great sport on light tackle.  These fish can now be found in all environments...from back waters to the beach and just about everywhere in between.  Fish out on the beach seem to be a little more cautious than during the summer months so, as a result, most Tampa Fishing Captains approach quietly and slowly.  The trick to getting these fish to bite is to let them settle down first.  Many anglers see a large group of snook and immediately begin firing baits into them.  Although this can trigger a quick strike, there's a better way.  First, stay as far away as possible once fish are sighted. Next, drop anchor and don't cast.  Be patient.  Ideally, the fish will settle down and stop moving. With the current availability of whitebait, there should be plenty extra to chum so do so. Give it several minutes to see if the fish respond.  Although the temptation is to just go ahead and cast, if the angler waits until these fish begin to eat, it is almost assured that the first hooked bait thrown out will be consumed. On a recent Tampa Fishing Charter, a group of 40 snook were sighted.  After patiently chumming for a few minutes, the fish began to eat and six fish up to 30 inches were caught in the next 15 minutes before the group "smartened up". 

Tampa Clearwater Reef Fishing

The weather forecast for the next few days shows moderate east winds.  Daylight hours are getting shorter triggering lower water temps and, at some point in the near future, the heat will have to break.  All of these variables should lead to the demise of the red tide on our local reefs.  Before it arrived, fishing for large spanish mackerel and keeper mangrove snapper was good. This will hopefully return quickly.  In addition, kingfish should be coming through it the next month to really ignite the action out there....and there are always the bonus species around to catch...bonita, cobia, barracuda, shark, a stray legal grouper...who knows. The fall season typically offers the best species diversity on Tampa Fishing Charters.

With Halloween approaching, don't forget to enjoy the Howl-O-Scream experience at Busch Gardens.  Or, if spending a weekend at Clearwater's newest luxury hotel sounds like a good plan, check in to the Opal Sands, which sits right on Clearwater pass and offers only ocean view rooms. Good luck and good fishing.


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