West Central Florida Fishing Report
Aripeka to Longboat Key
Includes Hudson, New Port Richey, Anclote Key, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Clearwater, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Anna Maria Island and Bradenton.
A string of good weather days may have come to a brief ending if weather predictions are on target. Days with 70s in the reports were closer to normal for this time of year, but a brief change with some lows in the 40s may be heading our way to start the weekend off.
Gag grouper are closed in federal waters for the next 6 months. Other fish to target may be options if you want to get out and bend a rod farther than 9 miles from shore, but according to Capt. Dave Zalewski, the 60-foot mark has been loaded with fish. Zalewski has been targeting white grunts, and recently has been putting upward of 80 grunts a day in the box. The mild white flaky fillets from these fish are delicious, but not often kept. But the secret of their table appeal may be out of the bag. While hitting the 60-foot mark, Zalewski said he also released a pair of gags measuring 29 and 30 inches respectively. For those looking to score some grouper in state waters, these fish are still a possibility if you’re willing to go through some shorts in the process.
Offshore springs beyond 30 miles are producing some nice amberjack. Chumming these fish to the surface is a possibility, allowing them to be fished on lighter tackle in the 20- to 30-pound class. For deep-jigging near the bottom, 50-to 80-pound grouper rigs may give you more power to muscle some of the bigger brutes up off the bottom.
Trout fishing has been the buzz this week as the season-opener last Saturday had anglers looking for some fish to take home. Reports on the entire Suncoast have been positive. Capt. Rick Grassett, of the Snook Fin-Addict out of CB Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key, reported having some excellent action on Sarasota Bay with fly anglers this week. Fishing with Ft. Myers guide, Capt. Rick DePaiva, they caught and released several undersized redfish and 40-or-so trout on fly, a good day in anybody’s book. Capt. William Toney, out of Homosassa, reported limits of trout being caught on D.O.A. Shrimp in the Homosassa River and also in King's Bay in the Crystal River. The hot spot on cold clear days has been the Crystal River power plant. Similar action down in Anclote at the power plant has been taking place, as has the Weedon Island and Apollo Beach power plants. Action is good on cold days, but fish spread out and leave when the weather turns nice.
Trout in the Terra Ceia area have been cooperative as well with good action on D.O.A. shrimp, C.A.L. jigs, TTR18 MirrOlures, and the new 18MR MirrOlure Heavy Dine. Anglers fishing the dropoffs near channel edges are doing well. Water ranging from 5 to 8 feet deep are holding good numbers of trout.
Redfish have been laid up in the shallows over dark muddy bottoms sunning themselves this week. The occasional overcast day, and on Tuesday when fog rolled into the Tampa Bay area, sent fish to deeper water, but on sunny days, the shallows were where reds were found that would eat. Long casts with light jigheads kept most fish from being spooked. Anglers working jerk worms like the CAL, Exude RT Slug, and MirrOlure Lil’ John slowly along the bottom are getting strikes. Stink baits like the Berkly Gulp! have been effective for anglers dead- sticking the lures and fishing them like cut bait.
Assortments of other fish are being caught inshore. Flounder, bluefish, black sea bass, and juvenile gag grouper can still be caught in the shallows. Sheepshead are beginning to fatten up for the upcoming spawning season between February and March. Anglers fishing the pilings around the Gandy Bridge are doing well with sheepies. Silver trout are beginning to show along the beaches in some areas from Blind Pass off St. Petersburg to Clearwater in about 14 feet of water. Inside Tampa Bay, deep holes off Riviera Bay on the St. Petersburg side have been holding fish in 16 to 20 feet of water. Some holes north of there to Weedon Island are also holding some fish. Anglers fishing the Manatee River channel up near the Green Bridge reported catching a few “sugar trout” as some call them there. Loves’ Lures tandem rigged jigs work well on these fish, and tipping them with a bit of fresh shrimp sometimes improves the bite.
Bass may show signs of beginning to hit the beds for some areas, but the real deal is the crappie bite that has been steadily improving. Look for speckled perch to be in some of the deeper areas of Lake Tarpon. Drift several rigs at multiple depths with Missouri minnows to find a school. Drop a marker and return upwind to repeat the drift for best action.
Report courtesy of Capt. Ray Markham
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