November fishing in the Tampa / Clearwater Area is nothing short of fantastic. Even with warm temperatures penetrating deeper into the fall season over the last few years, it's a safe bet that low to mid seventies will be the norm as this eleventh month arrives. Mid to low seventies means kingfish are on the prowl. Any areas congregating bait will typically have these predators circling. Normally, local, Pinellas County, artificial reefs are as good a spot as any to try however, over the last few weeks, these reefs have not been holding large amounts of bait..making kingfishing a little slow at these locations. The trick is to find the large threadfin herring schools that are starting to gather. Sabiki up a dozen of these baits and then take them straight back through these schools at a slow speed and wait for reels to scream. Most of these fish near shore have been average size...12 to 20 lbs...but on a medium heavy spinning outfit spooled with 20 lbs test braided line, it's an exciting fight. 6000 series reels are generally considered a minimum requirement for this fishing due to the line capacity required. Able to hold about 400 yards of 20 lbs braid, this allows enough time to turn the boat and get back after these fish.
Larger mangrove snapper are now staring to populate near shore hard bottom areas and, aside from being great to eat, provide excellent sport. On some Tampa Fishing Charters, aggressive chumming will bring dozens of these fish to the surface...only to have them refuse to eat. On others, they will never rise up but will aggressively eat baits dropped to the bottom. It's just hard to say what each day will bring but, rest assured, these near shore fish are smart. Baits are most often consumed when presented in one of two ways; either drifted back in the current, stimulating a bait with no hook in it or dropped straight to the bottom and leaving it motionless. Both of these presentations show the bait to the fish the way they expect. When the fish are being agreeable, these baits, after being closely inspected, will usually be eaten by one of several fish circling it. This is only half the battle though. As light tackle and long leaders are required, the angler must be immediately prepared to redirect a hooked fish from the rock below. Showing some similarity to the fight of a grouper, a four pound snapper on 20 lbs test will make every effort to get back tot he reef...and for those who are sleeping at the switch, it will often get there.
Although Spanish mackerel are almost always present, and fish like bonita and cobia represent possible catches, those at the top of the food chain...barracuda and sharks...mostly spinners and blacktips....have made regular appearances over the last few weeks. Both of these fish are fast and strong. Some anglers like to catch them. Others would like to avoid them. On a recent Tampa Fishing Charter, the spinners started piling up behind the boat. One angler had an interest in doing battle so a shark line was put out. After loosing 4 fish (2 on lighter tackle), a fifth fish in the 50 -60 lbs category was hooked. This fish proceeded to empty about 250 yards off a Penn Senator loaded with 40 lbs test and then went skyward 3 times like a marlin. Spinners and blacktip are fast sharks, and even for those who don't want to mess with them, there is no arguing with the fact that seeing a spectacle like the one described above is truly exciting. 30 minutes later the fish was at boat side for it's photo and release.
Redfishing...red hot at the end of last month, slowed through the middle part of this month, but rallied a bit over the course of the last few Tampa Fishing Charters. Fish size appeared to be up a little bit as well, with the average size being 23 - 25 inches. Few overslot fish were caught however. As shorter days and continuing cold fronts take their toll on water temperatures, redfish will likely thin out a bit more but, as if out of nowhere, large seatrout will invade St Joseph's Sound. It is truly amazing how, literally from one day to the next, a location will go from having zero fish to a school of 30 to 50 fish. Tampa Fishing Guides will be on the lookout for this invasion and will quickly refocus their efforts to target this species once they arrive. Anglers from a wide area will target this great trout bite...the only downside to having this awesome fishery.
For those interested in a day/night out in beautifully renovated Downtown St Pete, the St. Pete Wine and Food Festival will be going on through Nov 6th in Straub Park. With pleasant day time temperatures, it's a great time to visit the theme park that is king of fast rides, Busch Gardens. Fun for all ages. Good luck and good fishing.
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