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The Skyway, Paul Bristow


The waters surrounding the Tampa Bay Estuary saw continued spotty showers & thunderstorms this past week, but anglers dodging the rains saw some nice windows of fishing action at the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Piers.  One great thing about the Skyway Piers is that anglers can walk a few feet to their vehicle to wait out a passing summer shower.  The activity level of gag grouper remained a hot topic, as the number of legal-sized fish climbed even from the good action of last week.  Spanish mackerel remained on a good bite, and artificial lure anglers fished some smaller jig baits to mimic a new year class of sardines that took up residence at the piers.  Cut natural baits remained the top option for anglers seeking a limit of Spanish mackerel.  A strong nighttime ladyfish bite emerged this week for anglers who enjoy targeting these wily fighters for either bait or wonderful fish patties.  Mangrove snapper action was good and many anglers got a full limit of fish for the cooler.  Snook and even some spotted seatrout remained on solid bites in the shallows, and some large female snook were released this past week.  Tarpon, shark and goliath grouper action is high for anglers seeking some true battles from a fixed structure.

Gag grouper bites continued at a good rate and the number of legal fish was also solid.  Natural baits fished on the bottom again seemed to outperform plugs and free-lined baits, but fish were taken on a wide variety of methods.  Cut baits were most often threadfin herring, squid, finger mullet, or ladyfish, but almost anything can work.  Free-lined baits were mostly pinfish & pigfish.  Outgoing tides on the artificial reefs were most popular, but a very admirable number of fish are being taken on the main bridge pilings on (and just past) the approach sections / dumpster areas of each pier.  It is almost comparable to dock fishing, because gags will often hang on the same structure as snook, as both species favor both cover & ambush points.

Afternoon outgoing tides this past week provided the best window to target Spanish mackerel.  Anglers caught plenty of legal-sized fish during the heat of the day, and many were over 18″ in length.  White jigs – either single or in tandem – seemed to outpace Gotcha lures and spoons as the primary artificial lure choices.  All are effective lure choices for the piers, but the key has been to work deeper in the water column.  The easiest bite seemed to be cutting scaled sardines or threadfin herring and using a long shank hook with a split-shot sinker.  Baitfish expert Fred Heinke has theorized that the plankton & microorganisms scaled sardines & threadfin herring feed upon have been pushed deeper not only by water temperature, but also by certain wind patterns this season.  The mackerel reports all year seem to agree with this assessment.  Perhaps the late summer and early fall patterns & temperatures will bring mackerel more to the surface where you can target them with popping corks and straw lures.

Ladyfish were active along the approach sections in the evening hours and these fish are popular for many reasons with Skyway visitors.  The first and foremost is their great fight, but they are also sought for their mild & flaky flesh for fish patties and great qualities as a baitfish.  Most anglers who target Spanish mackerel do not consider the species to be a common feeder after dark, but many are taken by ladyfish anglers after sundown.  The presentation most successful for both of these fish is simple.  It consists of perhaps 18″ to 24″ of monofilament or fluorocarbon leader material in the 25 lb. range, a long shank hook in the 1/0 or 2/0 range and a split-shot sinker for depth adjustments.  Use scaled sardines or threadfin herring kept on ice in a zipper bag for bait and cut slender strips from the belly and/or back section(s).  Hook the cut bait strip right at one end so it flutters with the tide and deploy it in a free-lining method with the tide.  It is the same approach used successfully by many mackerel anglers during the day, but at night you often get more mangrove snapper as a bonus fish.

Mangrove snapper remained aggressive this past week and many visitors fishing the artificial reefs had nearly constant action from this species.  Many catches of mangos had short fish, but when anglers reported catching 20+ mangos in a short fishing window, they did not seem disappointed that they had to release some fish.  Of course not all fish were small – with plenty of mangrove snapper iced for family fish fries.  Many visitors reported moving only slightly upon their chosen artificial reef section or switching baits in an attempt to entice larger fish.  Nice Key West Grunts & several species of porgies were in the mix.

Finding fish on bottom structure of gulf



Finding fish on the bottom structure of the Gulf of Mexico this summer has been up and down for our spearfishermen. In late spring and early summer, the fish migrated to their normal areas, then they changed up. Grouper stayed in the shallow water longer than they usually do, then a month and a half ago the fish split up and the majority of grouper, hogfish, snapper and some pelagic fish went to shallow structure in 30 feet of water or less, leaving hardly any fish in the medium depths. Once we ventured out deeper, to 95 feet. Usually we don’t get this pattern until late July and August. The American red snapper season ends Saturday. We are finally finding these big boys in water over 140 feet. This past week we had some American red snapper in the 18- and 19-pound class. Weird water is offshore now. A large, dark water layer is offshore and holding a 10-degree temperature drop just under the darkness. Out in 140 feet, the dark layer starts at 30 feet below the surface and drops down to 100 feet. Then about 30 feet off the bottom it clears up and the fish are waiting. South of St. Petersburg the dark layer is on the bottom in 80 to 90 feet, and most of the divers ran right into the bottom as they descended. Watch out for the dark water and the bottom when dropping in this week.

Bill Hardman teaches scuba, spearfishing and free diving through Aquatic Obsessions Scuba in St. Petersburg and can be reached at (727) 344-3483 and captainbillhardman@gmail.com.

East Central, Charlie Conner

As summer continues to heat things up each day, make sure you plan your outside adventures carefully.  I like to get out early so that we are off the water before noon.  Evenings are just as good.  Water temperatures continue to stay in the mid to high eighties.  We are fishing shallow water early and moving to deeper areas once the sun gets high.  Make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids and using good sunscreen out there.  It’s gonna be a hot summer so enjoy the fishing and go prepared for the conditions.
We have had good success fishing shallow early and deeper later in the day.  I had Pedro, Kevin, Tyler and 7 year old, Max, this past weekend.  Max out fished everyone that morning.  Max lost a nice redfish while fishing docks and we ended up with one slot red and a nice sheepshead from there.  Moving to the channel edges, we found lots of snapper with muttons up to 16″ and a good amount of lanes.  Add in some jacks and ladyfish to the list, too.  Pedro lost an 18″ flounder next to the boat to make for an exciting day for all.  I had Don, Art and Sherman  up from Palm Beach this past week..  It was going to be a hot morning, but the clouds moved in and kept us out of the worst of the sun.  We found big croakers and jacks in the channel edges that made for a fun day for the guys.   Try the DOA shrimp around docks and mangroves for a chance at a redfish.  Anglers fishing the spillways are doing good with snook on DOA Terror Eyz and Swimming Mullet.  Root beer colors always work the best there.  Don’t forget that its catch and release right now for snook.  Fish for trout early with top water lures or the Deadly Combo.  The flats north of Fort Pierce have been the most active lately.  Snapper have moved into the river and fishing the channel edges will be productive this time of year.  Glass minnows are moving into the river and will be bringing in many hungry fish to feed on them.  It might be hot, but its a great time of year to fish!
Ramps are crowded this year, especially on weekends.  Expect lots of traffic when you go to launch both on the water and on the parking lot.  Patience can make for a better experience.  I see many people come up and tie off to the ramp expecting that to get them priority on pulling their boat even when others are waiting in line to back into the ramp.  A little common courtesy can help eliminate conflicts.  Think about what you are doing and do the right thing!
Remember, as always, fishing is not just another hobby……it’s an ADVENTURE!
Good Fishing,
Captain Charlie Conner

Nature Coast, William Toney


Can’t say the weather will be the same this weekend but with the overcast rainy conditions I’ve done well with sea trout. Moving water and questionable weather is best. Trout are low light feeders so clouds with a choppy surface are best. On a moving tide position the drift of your vessel towards or away ( depending on winds direction) from some outside point like Mangrove or Chassahowitzka.  A popping cork with a dark colored jig will get the bite. Some of the trout we caught were dark in color or tannin stained and the larger trout were very silver in color indicating that they have moved in from offshore. There are a few patches of rock grass near these points.

 The scallops are holding out even with plenty of folks out every day harvesting them.  I’ve done well out near the Bird Rack. High incoming tide will be late morning this weekend  and a late afternoon low.

The Keys


Florida Keys Fishing Report week of 7/16/2018
Provided by:
(this report may be reproduced in any media format as long as credit is given to:www.islamoradasportfishing.com)

Dolphin catches remain good, although the body of fish is still way offshore at over twenty miles. Of course, there are some Mahi being caught inshore, but not in big numbers. Captain Travis on his Indigenous charter boat out of Bud and Mary’s Marina has been making the long run and getting into plenty of Dolphin. On one recent trip catching a very large Bull Dolphin in the forties in weight. It has been very calm allowing the smaller boats to comfortably make the run offshore. Captain Juan Garcia has been taking his 24 foot bay boat out in search of the pelagics and getting Dolphin and then switching up and doing some deep dropping. Captain Juan has been finding deep water Snapper and Tilefish dropping baits in well over 200 feet of water. As usual there have been some Wahoo and Blackfin Tuna caught also.
Even with the clear water charters are having good success with the Yellowtail Snapper. Captain Rob on the Southern Comfort fished the reef last week and did a bang up job on the Yellowtail Snapper. Captain Don on the Kay K IV stayed on the reef a couple of trips last week and did well on the Yellowtail too. Beyond the reef in the 200 plus foot depths some charters report getting into good action on Vermillion Snapper. Captain Billy Chrisman on his V era Vita out of Whale Harbor Marina fished the reef and got Snapper and mackerel and also released a Sailfish.
Gulf and Bay:
It’s a broken record in this zone these days. In the boundary area where the bay meets the Gulf the Trout and Snapper bite is on and just great. The method for success is to drift and jig through the lush Turtle Grass bottom. It will be either Trout or Snapper to take the jig. In the same vicinity there are still plenty of willing Tarpon. Fish tide for Tarpon. Anchor or drift in the channels with live Mullet or Ladyfish and concentrate on the last of the falling or first of the incoming tide.
Flats, Backcountry and Flamingo:
In the Islamorada area the Tarpon still garner most of the attention. Morning or evening in the low light or in darkness the bite will be better. Live bait or chunk bait on the bottom in the channels or just of the shallow banks will be the target rich area. Captain Vinnie Biondoletti has been on the Tarpon in the evenings. Look for Permit [fish] in the channels and using a float hang a small live crab just a few feet below the surface. Look for good results on Snook and Redfish in the Flamingo and Cape Sable areas. The water is hot, so fish early and fish the moving tide for the best results. There have been some Tripletail caught in the bay around debris.


Fishing docks and bridges at night is good way to beat summertime heat



The summertime heat and humidity are in full swing. Get out early to avoid the heat and the afternoon thunderstorms. Water temperatures are anywhere from 88 to 93 degrees. With water temperatures that high, you’ll be able to spend only the first few hours of the day on the flats. After that, follow fish to deeper water where it’s cooler. The key to a good fishing trip this time of year is water movement. Another option is to get out at night and fish docks and bridges. The snook bite has been the best on the start of the incoming tide in most places. Just find a point with good water flow and you will find snook piled up waiting for the bait to be pushed by. Redfish have been a little harder to target. Patience is the key with them. The most success has been with cut bait tossed way up under the mangroves on high tide. If you’re looking for something to eat, then mangrove snapper and silver trout in deeper water are very easy now. The big shipping cans and markers are producing both species. Both shrimp and smaller scaled sardines have been the bait of choice. Use as light of tackle as possible. Bring a chum bag and try to bring them up off the bottom or use a knocker rig with a 1/0 circle hook.

Mike Gore charters out of Tampa Bay. Call him at (813) 390-6600 or visit tampacharters.com.

Recreational red snapper season closes July 21


July 16, 2018


Video: https://youtu.be/NIysFz90Jb0


Suggested Tweets: Gulf recreational red #snapper season closes 7/21. Last day open is 7/20. @MyFWC: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/FLFFWCC/bulletins/1fef9ef #fishing #Florida


Recreational red snapper season closes July 21 in Gulf state and federal waters


red snapper photo

FWC photo.


If you haven’t made it out yet, the red snapper season for recreational anglers fishing from private vessels and for charter captains who do not have a federal reef fish permit is open through July 20, closing July 21. The federal season for for-hire operations with federal reef fish permits is open through July 21, closing July 22.


Share your real-time catch data with us by downloading and using the iAngler Gulf Red Snapper app for private anglers or the iAngler Gulf Red Snapper Charter app if you are a charter operation. These new smartphone apps were designed specifically for voluntary reporting of red snapper catch information and are available via your phone’s app store.


Don’t forget to add Gulf Reef Fish Angler on your license (includes those that are exempt) before you go fishing for reef fish from a private recreational boat in Gulf state and federal waters (excluding Monroe County). You can get this printed on your license at no cost atGoOutdoorsFlorida.com or by visiting any location where you can purchase a license.


For-hire operations that do not have a federal reef fish permit are limited to state waters only for red snapper fishing and must have State Gulf Reef Fish Charter on their license to target red snapper and other reef fish in Gulf state waters (excluding Monroe County). This can be done at no cost at a local tax collector’s office.


To learn more about the 40-day recreational red snapper season in Gulf state and federal waters, including season size and bag limits, visit MyFWC.com/Snappers.


Federal fishery managers are expected to announce an Atlantic red snapper season for federal waters soon. Learn more at sero.nmfs.noaa.gov.


Don’t forget about the ponds for fishing



Saltwater gets all of our attention, but when driving to and from work or visiting a friend, keep an eye out for a pond that looks fishy. There are many productive ponds that have bass and panfish, some even have snook and baby tarpon, both of which adapt well to freshwater. You’re okay to fish on public land, but if privately owned, seek permission. Keep a rod rigged in the vehicle. An SUV can accommodate a fully rigged fly rod, or you can have it in two sections in a protective case in the trunk. Park your car in a safe place and observe the pond’s surface for activity. A small pair of binoculars is helpful. Most fish will be around structure, trees, floating plants, docks, bridges or an aerator. On a sunny day, shade is the key. In the absence of structure, cast close to shore where most food sources such as hoppers, crickets, ants, beetles and baitfish are plentiful. Splashes will give away feeding activity. A 4- or 5-weight fly rod with a floating weight-forward line using a 7-foot leader tapered to 8-pound test will handle easily and allow you to find if any fish are present. Use flies that imitate small baitfish and terrestrials or use a white or yellow popper in sizes 6-8 and cover water quickly. If you find fish too small for your equipment or too large, adjust gear to be better prepared on your return visit.

Fly fisherman Pat Damico runs charters in lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpatdamico.com and (727) 504-8649.

North Pinellas, Stewart Ames


July is an interesting month. With water temperatures closing in on summer time highs, certain fish start to bite less well during the heat of day.  Large seatrout, for one, seem to be greatly reduced in number.  “Keeper” trout are still catchable out on the beaches and occasionally inshore, but are targeted much less due to availability and size.  With the outstanding fishing available for these fish in winter, it almost seems a waste of time to chase them now. Besides, with snook fishing strong for another month and redfish being fairly available, most anglers would rather target these bigger species. Redfishing has been up and down but seemed to improve again during this most recent week of high tides.  Although trips weren’t producing big numbers, all fish caught were of good quality…pretty much a replay of the June report.  Live whitebait and pinfish as well as a variety of cut baits, all served as productive bait choices. Oyster bars and mangrove shorelines on the high tides were the ticket to success.

Snook fishing remained strong with most trips producing a half dozen fish or better.  Usually, a few fish 33 inches or larger would represent a part of the daily catch. The crazy thing about July fishing is that more snook are caught on most trips than redfish.  Redfish, for most of the year, are the easier part of the fishing day as they can be dependably caught…but with good snook fishing and average redfishing, this trend seems to reverse for a month or so each year.  Fish deeper holes with free lined grass grunts and shallower spots, like beach swashes, with whitebait for best success. With that said, many Tampa fishing guides make it a point to try both baits in all locations as, sometimes, after fishing to a group of uncooperative fish, a bait change can trigger an immediate strike. Although Florida has a great variety of gamefish to target, it’s hard to beat snook.  On light tackle, these fish make strong runs, with occasional jumps, and their structure seeking nature make them a great challenge. Good luck and good fishing.
Captain Stewart Ames

P.O. Box 541
Crystal Beach, Florida 34681
727 421-5291

Rick Grassett, Sarasota

Capt. Rick Grassett’s Sarasota, FL Fishing Report for 7/14/2018
Fly anglers fishing with me recently, out of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key, had good action with tarpon in the coastal gulf in Sarasota. We had multiple shots at tarpon and several hookups. My friend Steve Gibson, of Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing, had a good day with me on Monday with multiple shots, jumping 3 tarpon and battling one to close to the boat.
Frank Zaffino, from Rochester, NY, also fly fished for tarpon several days later in the week with me. He also had good action, jumping several tarpon. Action was good but slowed following the new moon.
Tarpon fishing should be good in the coastal gulf. Late season tarpon have usually spawned and are more aggressive. There should also be good action with trout, blues and Spanish mackerel on deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay. Fishing dock lights in the ICW at night is always a good option for snook and more. Walking the beach and sight fishing snook in the surf can also be good this time of year. Our natural resources are under constant pressure, please limit your kill, don’t kill your limit!
Tight Lines,
Capt. Rick Grassett
FFI Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Orvis-Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide at CB’s Saltwater Outfitters
Orvis Outfitter of the Year-2011
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.
(941) 923-7799