June and July are outstanding months for catching larger snook along our local beaches and this last month was no exception. Unlike other areas in the region where small and large snook appear to be in more even balance, snook off of northern Pinellas County Beaches just seem large. The majority of fish being caught on Tampa Fishing Charters appear to be breeder females with fish typically averaging well over thirty inches. Over the last few weeks, some smaller males have begun to show up in the mix but larger fish are still accounting for at least half of the days' hook ups. The catching percentage on these larger fish ia a little less due to the fact that they are more adept at finding a way off the hook. This mix of fish is surpising as there are generally slightly more males in the population than females. In one snook study, the male to female ratio was 1.3 to 1 in the west coast population so the expectation would be that there would be more smaller male snook available. This is interesting as it relates to our recent fish kill as the average growth rate of male snook puts them at 21 - 28 inches after 4 -6 years and it appears that there is still a void in this age group...possibly supporting the belief that snook should remain closed for a few more years...a view shared by many Tampa Fishing Guides. Once snook switch over to females, which may happen between 3 months to 4-5 years old, the growth rate increases. Fish that change sex like this are called protandrous hermaphrodites. It is believed that the main reason that snook switch sex is to keep the population in an acceptable spawning balance. As many of the larger, older fish dying off are females, the change helps stabilize the spawning population. A few other interesting snook facts from the same study mentioned above include the following; 1) the average length for a 6 year old male fish was 28 inches, while the average length for a six year old female fish was 32 inches 2) Commercial sale of snook was banned in the state of Florida in 1956.
Tampa Fishing for snook should remain strong through the month of July and, with a little luck, on into the first week or so of August before the spawning season ends and the fish disperse. Grass grunts, threadfin herring and pilchards are still the baits of choice unless the target is an exceptionally large fish, in which case a big ladyfish is hard to beat. If landing a large snook is the primary goal of a fishing trip, following a few simple rules will help greatly. First, fish low light periods. The hotter it gets, the more nocturnal snook become. Many of the largest fish in the area do the majority if their feeding at night or right at dawn and dusk. Second, be patient. There are al lot of fishermen in Pinellas County and snook receive constant pressure. Expecting to pull up in an area and getting an immediate bite is not a realistic belief in most cases. It will happen from time to time, but it is more the exception than the rule. Fish are usually aware of a boat entering into their domain and it's best to give them some time to forget about this intrusion. Once fish settle down and get comfortable, they may, in fact, turn on. Create a plan that puts you in front of multiple snook. On most Tampa Fishing Charters, it is expected that several spots will need to be fished before hungry, aggressive snook are found. On a typical 6 hour trip, a half dozen quality fish might be landed but the reality is that most of these fish will probably come from one spot and be caught in a relatively short period of time.
Redfish remain hit and miss...some Tampa Fishing Charters will produce a half dozen quality fish yet others produce limited results, even when a significant effort is put forth and large areas are worked meticulously. The big schools of fish just don't seem to be regularly available and, as a result, Tampa Fishing for redfish has been a one fish at a time proposition for the last month. Although it is true that this can change at any time, many Tampa Fishing Guides are simply spending more of the day targeting the large snook. The approach for redfish remains the same...fishing cut baits in areas of shade under docks and along mangrove shorelines on the high tides. Working the drop off edge of oyster bars has also yeilded some decent fish as well.
Rather than talk about trout, which seem to be getting smaller by the week, there is another opportunity that has become available... gag grouper. The season opened on July 1st. Although these fish are not as abundant as they will be later in the year, some quality fish are available within the near shore range of Tampa Fishing Charters. When grouper was open year round, it was always believed that all of these fish moved deeper in summer's heat. Although many of them probably did, some stayed shallow, but were most likely caught. With the season freshly opened, there may be a several week window to catch these fish close to shore. Rest assured that come September, near shore grouper fishing should be excellent based on the early year closures each of these last two seasons. An interesting phenomenon relating to this near shore grouper fishing is that fewer fish are hooked on most near shore Tampa Fishing Charters, but the percentage of keepers seems to be higher than when fishing farther out.
With another few months left in summer, there is still plenty of time to catch some quality fish. Good luck and good fishing.