FWC has taken a bold step.  Close snook, redfish and trout completely until next May. How do Tampa Fishing Guides feel about this?  For the most part, the sentiment is that this is a positive step....that our primary inshore species are being protected.  Although red tide did not quite reach northern Pinellas County last year, it was felt that local fish populations were still affected so the closure was put in place. 

Are affects of this red tide being seen locally this year? In northern Pinellas, sea trout fishing was decent this last winter, but not nearly as good as the previous year (which was outstanding)....so maybe there was an impact  Redfishing has been very productive for the last month to six weeks, so it appears that that this population is holding it's own.  Snook season however, got off to a slow start.  Was it red tide or was it that fish that wintered offshore were slow to move to the beaches. No one knows for sure, but fishing has improved significantly in the last 2-3 weeks. Bottom line...better to be safe than sorry as the closure will improve fishing for everyone.

As mentioned above, larger snook appeared in good numbers a few weeks ago.  This improves fishing in two ways.  First and most obvious, is that the larger fish are available to be caught.  Second, the arrival of the big females seems to concentrate the smaller males on the beach as well so over all catch numbers go up. Another interesting phenomenon seems to be taking place regarding what baits snook will eat.  At this time of year, Tampa Fishing Charters have always left the dock with a good supply of grass grunts in addition to whitebait, pinfish etc..  This bait has become accepted as the bait of choice for bigger snook (although certainly a variety of other larger baits will work).  This year, however, although some fish are still being caught on grunts, it almost appears that the snook are becoming more wary of these baits...possibly since so many fishermen are using them. As result, deluxe sized white baits have been catching the majority of the larger snook in the past few weeks. Catching a couple hundred of these larger baits has been "work" recently, but the effort is rewarded almost every time. 

Sea trout are mixing with these snook out on the beaches, as is typical for this time of year.  Occasional fish over 20 inches are being seen but the average size, 15 - 17 inches,  runs smaller than the large winter trout.  Whitebait is clearly the best option for catching these trout...but with fish being smaller and "unkeepable", many Tampa Fishing Guides are spending less time targeting them and, instead, focusing on the larger snook and redfish.

Redfishing has been very consistent on the stronger tide phases. The quality of the fish has been excellent as well. Although there haven't been many days where fishing was "wide open", every trip recently has yielded between 8 - 12 fish, with at least half being mid to over slot fish. Whitebait, pinfish and cut baits have all worked well...then again, there isn't much that a redfish won't eat.  Mangrove shorelines have been most productive but several spots against the mainland and on the spoil islands are also producing fish.

Late May and early June showed pretty good pushes of tarpon going through local passes.  Fishing early, late and on the changing tides seemed to be most productive.  All of the usual baits can trigger a strike...large grunts or pinfish, big thread fins or crabs. Baits that will stay higher in the water column (whitebait and crabs) can be presented both with and without bobbers.  It's best to keep the pinfish and grunts from heading to the bottom.  There are days when many tarpon are present and hard to hook, but these fish, like snook, will turn on and provides periods of good feeding activity.

Looking for a little outdoor adventure? Go zip-lining in Oldsmar at Empower Adventures. If drinking, dining and strolling along the Hillsborough River in Tampa has some appeal, visit Riverwalk Tampa, where there are plenty of options. Good luck and good fishing.

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