Summer heat has finally started to give way to the approaching fall season. Tampa and Clearwater Fishing guides know that this is the signal for great fishing to come...not just in terms of variety, but numbers as well. Soon, trips to hard bottom areas within 5 miles of shore should produce high volume catches. Yes, there will be hoards of Spanish mackerel and the local snapper fishing, if last spring and fall were any indication, should be dynamite. These two fish alone could potentially keep anglers busy for the better part of most Tampa Fishing charters, but at least an additional half dozen species could find themselves being part of any days catch. More and bigger bait along the beach only means more and bigger predators will come in to take advantage of this forage. Within weeks, the kingfish bite should be on. Shark, cobia, bonita, big jack crevalles and barracuda are several of the other species that could be encountered in these areas.
Many of these fast, sharp toothed fish will require different rigging than the standard inshore fisherman is used to. Guides in the Tampa and Clearwater areas who head out off the beach will tie specialized rigs to insure that these fish actually wind up on the boat. The simplest insurance against fish "biting off" is a 2/0 2X long shank hook. With an actual length of about 2 inches, this hook will, in some cases, keep the fish's teeth off the hook. It's a good plan to start with this hook as there is no leader preparation...the angler simply ties it on. On days when fish are very aggressive and / or larger, the long shank hook may not get the job done. By using a short steel leader, the odds of landing a hooked fish go up considerably. Constructing these leaders is relatively quick and easy. The ingredients are the following: a 50 lbs test Spro Swivel, a 6 inch lead of 41lbs Malin Wire and a hook that is appropriately sized for the bait you'll be using....a 2/0 bait hook is about right for most whitebait. Secure the swivel and hook to the leader using a Haywire twist. By having all of the components laid out on a desk, including pieces of wire cut to length, Tampa Fishing Guides can easily tie a dozen of these short leaders in a half hour. These leaders generally work well for mackerel, bonita and even kingfish.
Should larger baits be used, especially when slow trolling for kingfish, a stinger 4/0 treble hook should be added to the short leader rig mentioned above. All that is required is another length of leader, which is secured, via Haywire Twist, through the eye of the hook on the short leader. The treble hook is then secured at the other end of this wire and the rig is done. Bait size will determine how far back the stinger hook is positioned. On a big threadfin herring it might be three inches. On a mullet, it might be 6 inches. Again, hook sizes should be "bait appropriate". If at anchor, baits presented on long shank hooks and short leaders may simply be allowed to swim freely behind the boat. On the stinger rigs, a balloon is often used as the rig itself is a little heavier and the bait has 2 hooks in it...both of which could make it more prone to sink. There are days when fish will be more resistant to hitting a bait with any wire on it, so long shank hooks may be the way to go, even though fish are breaking off. By having all three rigs ready, anglers will be prepared for any scenario.
Inshore, redfish remain abundant. Fish seem to be trending mid slot still. Groups of fish are being found that provide plenty of action. Fishing higher tide phases, around mullet or in past productive areas should yield fish to most anglers. Remember that these fish are hungry now and will take a bait sooner rather than later. So fish - move, fish - move, fish - move until activity is found.
At peak tide movement, it's still worth taking a shot at snook. Fish are being sighted up in residential canals and bayous, as well as along local spoil islands. Some of these fall snook have also moved back in along mangrove shorelines and can provide a very welcome surprise when fishing for redfish. Tampa and Clearwater fishing guides often use cut baits for redfish and, although is it a common belief that snook will eat only live baits, they'll often pick up one of these redfish offerings. Getting a large snook out of the mangroves is another story but always provides some excitement no matter what the outcome.
With cooler air approaching, several upcoming events may be of interest. The first of these is Beats by the Bay Music Festival in Vinoy Park on October 22nd. Another option, which will get you on the water, is Captain Memo's Pirate Cruises out of Clearwater Harbor. For out of town guests with children, it's a good option to see the Clearwater area by water, have someone else amuse the kids and drink a few cocktails all at the same time. Good luck and good fishing.
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