It was certainly great to get back out offshore this past week.
Rainy conditions and an on-shore wind flow had it shut down outside of the pass. Mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel and gag grouper are within reach of most boaters when the weather cooperates. Inshore waters are peaking around 87 degrees mid day, which can make backwater fishing tough, to say the least.
Prior to our latest stint of west winds, things were starting to look up around here, especially in the bait department. Loads of small pilchards could be found right up tight to the beach, where they could be cast netted with a quarter-inch mesh cast net. These baits in combination with some trap caught pinfish along with a couple of frozen chum blocks were the right combination for near-shore mangrove snapper and gag grouper fishing.
Although the aforementioned bait stocks are on the small side, there is at least one situation that you can put it to some good use. Mangrove snapper remain at the top of the list for targetable species this week.
Shallow ledges and the many artificial structures throughout the county are holding plenty of mangrove snapper. Plenty of chum, both in the form of frozen blocks and fresh pieces of sardines, will draw the snapper near the surface, where they can be targeted with the light tackle necessary to fool this formidable opponent. Free-lining fresh dead sardines back to the school of snapper on a small hook and no more than a 30-pound leader is an incredibly fun way to fish and one of the few reliable patterns for mid-summer fishing.
All of that chumming and fish catching is sure to draw the attention of any gag grouper that might be in the area. Drop down those grass grunts and pinfish and get ready.
The gags are typically fired up when you first start dropping baits to them, so using an 80-pound leader is a good way to make sure you get the fish up off the bottom and don’t risk shutting the bite off before you catch a few.
Tyson Wallerstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To get a fish photo in the paper, send the photo along with your name, when and where it was caught to editorial@TBNweekly.com or mail it to Tampa Bay Newspapers, 9911 Seminole Blvd., Seminole, FL 33772.