With seas in excess of ten feet this last weekend, it's safe to say that our first cold front of the year has arrived. During the actual passage of these fronts, fishing becomes next to impossible for a variety of reasons including dangerous waves, falling temperatures, dirty water and difficulty securing bait. Tampa Fishing Guides know that the silver lining in all of this is that, when things settle back down a few days later, a strong possibility exists that big numbers of kingfish will have moved in and also that gag grouper will have started their inshore migration to fatten up for the winter.
Kingfish did make a near shore appearance about a week ago as temperatures approached the magic 75 degree mark but seemed to diminish in numbers over the last week, possibly due to a slight warming and high pressure trend. Several trips produced multiple hook ups. Bait of choice were either pilchards or, better yet, small mackerel. The difficulty in using small mackerel is that they must be caught "on site' as they die quickly so this bait is not always available. Although the kingfish bite was not as strong as hoped, Spanish mackerel were everywhere and were among the biggest caught in recent years...some days producing numerous fish over 5 pounds. Anchoring and aggressive chumming was the ticket here. In most cases, this mackerel / kingfish bite is best during the first half of the morning but there were days that the mackerel bite was very active all day. Adding to the mix was the occasional large bonito....always good for a few drag screaming runs...and the occasional barracuda appearance, usually associated with a mackerel being cut in half at boat side. Mediaum sized spinner and blacktip sharks have also invaded the mackerel grounds and are a dependable catch for anyone wanting to pull on something big for a half hour or so.
With the absence of near shore gag grouper, Tampa Fishing Charters in search of grouper have been heading out about 8 miles to target red grouper. Although this species is closed in federal waters, there are plenty inside of the "nine mile line'...the trick being to find the ones big enough to take home. After fishing mackerel and kingfish for a few hours, running out the extra few miles for these grouper takes little time and the bites are non stop, if the proper bottom is found. These fish will eat just about anything but using larger baits can exclude some of the smaller fish.
Inshore, Tampa Fishing for redfish has remained spotty. Trips into the backwaters were still yielding a few snook but this recent cold will likely dampen this activity, at least for a few days. There are still some larger redfish near the passes and on inshore rock piles for those willing to spend the time and effort. Larger winter seatrout should start to populate familiar winter haunts in the next few weeks...which puts them right on time for their usual Thanksgiving arrival. Spring and fall both represent great times of year to fish on the southwest coast of Florida due to the variety of species available. Six hour Tampa Fishing Charters can produce catches that include redfish, trout, kingfish, mackerel, grouper, shark and more. Every once in a while, something totally unexpected hits the deck such as this almost legal amberjack caught in 25 feet of water.
For those visiting the area, or locals just wanting to get outside with the family, cooler temperatures and typically beautiful weather make it a great time of year to visit Busch Gardens and Lowry Park Zoo, two of Tampa's great attractions. Lowry Park Zoo is one of the best in the country for anyone with small children. Also, from November 21st through 23rd, the 24th Annual Suncoast Jazz Classic will be taking place on Clearwater Beach. Good luck and good fishing.