Temps still hot, fishing results in mixed bag
Despite water temps in the high 80s, flats fishing is still productive as long as you fish early morning as opposed to midday.
Spotted seatrout and catch-and-release snook seem to be the predominant bite, especially during swift-moving, early morning tides. Redfish are present, although the numbers of fish are not what they should be.
Moving out to deeper structure such artificial reefs, wrecks and rock piles is a good idea, as you approach the heat of the day. Mangrove snapper, flounder and even grouper are being caught in these areas. You’ll also find Spanish mackerel and sharks in abundance.
On my Southernaire charters, I’m finding a great trout bite on the early morning tides. Spotted seatrout 12-22 inches are being caught by free-lining live shiners over grass flats in water depths of 4-8 feet. Mixed in are bluefish, mackerel, mangrove snapper and juvenile grouper.
After catching trout, I’m moving to shallower flats of 2-3 feet of water where mangrove shorelines and/or oyster bars are present. In these areas rallies of schooley-sized catch-and-release snook are occurring. Free-lined live shiners are quickly being inhaled by the 24-inch fish. Bigger linesiders are mixed in, although most are 22-26 inches. An occasional redfish is being caught in between snook bites but are random.
Catch-and-release shark fishing is at its best right now along the beaches of Anna Maria and throughout Tampa Bay. Blacktip sharks are the most apparent and are ranging from 25-100 pounds. Fresh-cut chunks of Spanish mackerel are working great as bait but ladyfish, jack crevalle or blue runners will work, too.
Lastly, the mangrove snapper have invaded the inshore waters in abundance. Whether fishing the flats, reefs or rock piles, I’m seeing snapper being reeled up quite consistently. I’m noticing the fish being caught on the flats are barely legal, but the fish on structure are much larger. Free-lining or bottom fishing baits is productive depending on where you are and what mood the snapper are in.