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Florida Keys Fishing Report week of 4/16/18
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There have been a few catches of Dolphin offshore, but no big push as of yet. Captain Brian Cone caught two Mahi in the teens in weight on a current edge last week. Captain Chuck on the Dee Cee boated a few nice Dolphin one trip also. The Blackfin Tuna on the humps are biting good. Captain Paul on the Reef Runner got into the Tuna on the Hump one day boating a dozen.

There is good action on the reef with Sailfish and Yellowtail Snapper the highlight. The Charter Boat Early Bird released three Sailfish last week. Captain Billy on the Vera Vita out of Whale Harbor Marina had a great day on the reef with a box full of Yellowtail Snapper to show for it. There are Permit on the reef wrecks, so always have a few crabs in the live well just in case you want to throw at the Permit. It is recommended using a twenty pound spin outfit [for the Permit] with a short length of light fluorocarbon leader on the terminal end. Use a small sliding lead just to help cast and sink the crab.
Gulf and Bay:

Well, as they say, “all good things must come to an end” and that applies to the Spanish Mackerel in the Gulf. The Spanish Mackerel has been a great fishery for years and pretty reliable too. The Mackerel are for the most part far and few between now and guides are waiting for the Seatrout numbers to increase. The Trout have been anywhere from slow to great the past week. One thing is that there are some very large Trout around, ranging twenty inches and above. The Trout have been found in the western bay around Sandy Key and the banks that border the Gulf. Drifting and bouncing jigs is the method used by most. On the nice days the Tarpon are in good supply. Guides are fly fishing them, but mostly the big Silver Kings are caught on live Mullet under a float.
Flats, Backcountry and Flamingo:

It is pretty much all about the Tarpon for many guides these days. Fishing the island channels the Tarpon are thick. Captain Vinnie Biondoletti has been cast netting Mullet and baiting Tarpon most evenings. Captain Skip Neilson has been also catching Tarpon on live bait in the channels. Captain Freddie out of Smugglers Cove caught two Tarpon one trip and when a third bite came he said the fish was not acting like a Tarpon. At boat side the fish was a Cobia of 38 inches. What a bonus. Captain Jeremy on the A Lil Tail fished Flamingo briefly one trip last week and released one Snook.

FWC announces 40-day recreational red snapper season


April 17, 2018

Suggested Tweet: 40-day recreational red snapper season announced by @FLGovScott and @MyFWC for Gulf waters: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/FLFFWCC/bulletins/1ea5346 #fishing #Florida

red snapper

Gov. Scott and FWC announce 40-day recreational red snapper season in Gulf state and federal waters

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Gov. Rick Scott are excited to announce a 40-day recreational red snapper season for both Gulf state and federal waters. A 24-day season was originally proposed.

Gov. Scott said, “Florida is a premier fishing destination and saltwater fishing in the Gulf of Mexico has a $7.6 billion economic impact in our state every year. Adding additional opportunities for anglers to enjoy Florida’s world-class fishing not only benefits our visitors but also our Gulf Coast communities. I am pleased to announce this extension today, and encourage visitors and residents to start planning their summer fishing trips.”

“Florida is an important access point throughout the nation and world for recreational red snapper fishing,” said FWC Chairman Bo Rivard. “With other Gulf states setting longer seasons than what Florida had initially proposed, it was important for us to find a fair resolution that would provide equal access to red snapper in Florida. FWC worked collaboratively with NOAA Fisheries to come up with a season that would provide access to all of those that choose Florida as their fishing destination. We appreciate the leadership from Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Congressman Neal Dunn and we are excited to announce that extension today.”

Florida will be setting the season in 2018 and 2019 in both state and federal waters through a fishery-management pilot program (also referred to as an Exempted Fishing Permit). The 2018 proposed season would open June 11 and close July 21.

This recreational season will include those fishing for red snapper from private recreational vessels. For-hire operations that do not have a federal reef fish permit are also included but are limited to targeting reef fish in Gulf state waters only.

This Exempted Fishing Permit will not apply to commercial fishermen or for-hire operations with a valid federal reef fish permit.

To share your comments or input on Gulf red snapper, visit MyFWC.com/SaltwaterComments.

Learn more about snapper at MyFWC.com/Fishing by clicking on “Saltwater Fishing,” “Recreational Regulations” and “Snappers” and don’t forget to sign up for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey via GoOutdoorsFlorida.com if you plan to target snapper or other reef fish from a private vessel.

Upper Tampa Bay, Neil Taylor


Plunging toward the month of May, great opportunities in the northern extent of the Bay. Redfish and trout will remain the best options. The numbers of snook continue to remain poor and there is little question that the recovery of that species is still going to take years. Most of the veteran anglers are steering clear of the species hoping that, left alone, they will be back to a great stature again in the future. It is going to take a long time. We need about five generations of fish and we need them to live to “past slot” maturity. It is a shame to see the people who are fishing this species. They don’t need the pressure.

Redfish remain a decent target but probably not as easy as the previous three spring seasons. They like the shorelines on high tides and stay in depths of 1.5 feet of water at all other tides. The rootbeer 12 Fathom Mullet is a killer bait for these fish. Make long casts and keep the lure down by the bottom. Redfish in Upper Tampa Bay are notoriously aggressive compared to other places around the regions.

Trout are still being caught, big trout, if you know exactly where to go. Large trout, over 25 inches, have been regular catches in the evenings in parts of Upper Tampa Bay. They are eating jigs and topwater lures. The Mirrolure series of topwater lures is exceptional for targeting and catching big trout on topwater lures. Try the Top Dog Junior “18” and see how they respond to it.

Big black drum are available at the bridge pilings. Pompano will be soon to follow. Upsize the tackle if this is something you want to do. Your trout outfits will make this battle last a long time.

Regular rains may help or hinder the action in the upper stretches of Tampa Bay. The rainy season is coming up fast. Get out and enjoy the action in this part of our waters!

I love Upper Tampa Bay. I wish it was good 12 months a year.

Neil Taylor, strikethreekayakfishing.com
Owner, capmel.com

Lower Tampa Bay, Neil Taylor


The lower Bay area continues to produce incredibly steady action. What was already “good” action on redfish and speckled trout, the numbers of fish around the south shore is impressive. Flounder action should be right ahead. Reading old reports, many years they are back in by now already. It just hasn’t happened yet. The 12 Fathom SlamR on a 1/8 to 3/16-ounce jighead is a flounder catching machine. Slow and steady, ridden along bumping the bottom, fat flounder will pounce on the lure when it goes over their nose. The flounder are very aggressive and have been following lures, something that is not always the case. Notorious for dropping lures, let it flutter back down when they let go. You will be amazed how many flounder you will catch that strike a lure until they are finally hooked. Stay tuned, this action should be coming up fast.

Mackerel. The Silly Willy/Teaser rig is the best kept secret for hooking and catching a lot of mackerel in a short period of time. And it is much easier than slinging and cranking those spoons. Landing technique: It takes some practice but if you lean over the side, reel up all the slack and then launch the fish upward swiftly, the mackerel will come over the rail. Take care not to dangle fish on the surface for very long or you will be hooking pelicans. The Skyway piers have nets available for helping injured birds. By kayak, try the Gulf passes at sunrise. If there are diving birds there are probably going to be mackerel too.

Redfish action is best sunrise and sunset. Trips in the evening and pre-dawn have held the very best action when the sunlight is minimal. The 3-inch mullet is the best lure to throw to redfish and you can use your favorite colors. Greengo, rootbeer gold glitter and Shimmer Gold have been great choices.

Trout action got interesting down in the mid Bay region. The action on 16 inch fish is strong. Move around to try to locate even bigger fish but there are plenty of lower slot fish in this area. We had one trip with 30 trout over 18 inches. There are not many days like that.

Sharks are on their way back in. This will be an exceptional year for blacktip sharks. The deeper troughs hold a lot of sharks in the summer months and this year will have more than usual. Blacktips will eat lures but can be easily caught using whole, live baits like oversize pinfish. In other areas, they were eating silver trout that were being reeled in. Be cautious when handling a hooked shark. They can contort and bend and will try to defend themselves when they are being handled. A long-handled dehooking tool is a good investment.
As always: Be careful out there!

Neil Taylor
(Cell) 727-692-6345

The Kayak Report


The great fishing of spring has arrived. The wintertime fishing was OK but I just felt that things were going to explode and have things be a lot better than they had been during the crux of “winter.” The winds of spring were a frustration for a lot of the month of March but things leveled out to where we were only fighting the wind a couple of days a week. The action was still decent on the windier days but definitely it was much more pleasant and fruitful on the lighter wind days. With all the species listed below, plus hordes of ladyfish, it has not been unusual for anglers on Strike Three Kayak Fishing trips to get to triple digits on number of fish caught.

Lures has been all we have used and the 12 Fathom 3-inch mullet has been the top lure for redfish. The SlamR for trout. These lures on a 1/8 to 3/16-ounce jighead has accounted for a majority of the catches the past month. The 12 Fathom line is great line of soft plastic baits. The SlamR and Buzz Tail Shad are also lures used on a daily basis but with all the baitfish filtering back into Tampa Bay area waters, the Mullet is king. This lure, hovered and moved just above the bottom is an extraction tool. With the return of the pinfish, you will go through some lures but if you do not pull when you feel the “machine gun” tap-tap-tap strikes of pinfish, you will get a lot more use out of your lures.

The silver trout action has been good and their size has been impressive. Areas down toward the mouth of Tampa Bay had silvers that stayed until July last year. The trick is to keep lures down on the bottom. If you are not keeping the lures in contact with the bottom, you won’t catch any. Silvers saved the day once this week. After six weeks of easy action it just wasn’t that good. I put this group of three on a silver trout hole and they caught them every cast for two hours, really adding to their action for the day. Gave them some big dinners as well.

Spanish mackerel activity is excellent. They are increasing in size every day. By kayak, the mackerel are being caught off the deeper grassbeds around the Skyway area and at pretty much every Gulf pass. Up your leader size to at least 30-pound fluorocarbon to prevent cutoffs. Move the lures at a more brisk pace than for your shallow water species targeting. If we can get periods of time with less wind this should only get better. It hasn’t been as good as it normally would be in April but it will come. The Skyway: Pier manager, Jamie Foster, tells me that things are really incredible out there now. And they will be for a long time to come. I’ll throw a Silly Willy with a teaser attached in a loop knot for both species. For the mackerel, keep that lure jiggling or “rising and sinking steadily through the water column”. For pompano, keep it down bumping up and down off the bottom. Get on out there to take advantage of some fast action out there.
After the harsh weather of January, we have had a great stretch of weather, allowing things to normalize in the Florida fishing scene. Water temperatures have climbed back up in the 70’s, there are massive baitfish schools. Everything is pretty much right on schedule. The next seven weeks will be among the best all year.

As always: Be careful out there!

Neil Taylor
Guide Services-Tampa Bay Region
Strike Three Kayak Fishing
(Cell) 727-692-6345

Sarasota, Rick Grassett


Fly anglers fishing with me, out of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key, had good action on several trips recently in Sarasota Bay catching and releasing trout to 19”, a red and scattered Spanish mackerel and blues on a variety of flies. We mostly fished deep grass flats from 5’-8’ deep on both sides of the bay with Clouser and Grassett Deep Flats Bunny flies fished on clear intermediate sink tip fly lines. A persistent wind made finding a place to fish tough and required heavier flies to get them down in the water column on the deep grass flats.

Nick Reding, from Longboat Key, and Tony Merlis, from NH, had some action catching and releasing trout on flies on a trip with me in Sarasota Bay. Nick also waded a bar and caught and released a red on my Grassett Flats Minnow fly. Marshall Dinerman, from Atlanta, had good action with trout to 19” on CAL jigs with jerk worms and DOA Deadly Combos while fishing Sarasota Bay on another trip with me.

I was the instructor for a CB’s Saltwater Outfitters Orvis-Endorsed Fly Fishing School on Saturday. Students received fly casting instruction and also learned leader construction, fly selection and saltwater fly fishing techniques. This was the last school for the spring season. Classes will resume in the fall. Contact CB’s Saltwater Outfitters at (941) 349-4400 or info@cbsoutfitters.com for information on other classes and fly fishing events.

There should be good action with trout, blues, Spanish mackerel, pompano and more on deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay. Fishing shallow water for big trout, snook and reds with lures and flies is challenging although they should also be a good option now. Fishing dock lights in the ICW at night is always a good option for snook and more. 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.
www.snookfin-addict.com, www.snookfinaddict.com and www.flyfishingflorida.us ;
E-mail snookfin@aol.com
(941) 923-7799

Mosquito Lagoon, Tom Van Horn


Mid April Orlando Area and Mosquito Lagoon Fishing Report, April 15, 2018
Fishing conditions on the central east lagoon coast of Florida this past week covered the entire spectrum from very gorgeous to very challenging, but the catching was very rewarding for many anglers despite the adversity. The week started out with gorgeous conditions both inshore on the lagoons and offshore, and then it ended with stalled cold front and small craft warnings with the weekend of fishing being completely blown out. The water quality on the north IRL and in the Mosquito Lagoon is showing some improvement.

On Monday I decided to scout fish on my own in the Titusville section of the Indian River Lagoon. It was my first trip in that area since the fish kill south of there several week ago, and I wanted to see if I could still fine fish in that area. Although the water was still dirty, I did not see a single dead fish the entire morning. There was still plenty of mullet and other fish moving around on the flats, but I did not see a single redfish all morning.

On Tuesday I scouted on the Mosquito Lagoon. The morning started with a little fog about just before sunrise, but once the sun cleared the eastern shore line, flat and glassy conditions made sight fishing easy. At my first location I decided to give top-water plugs a try since it is the season for the return of the silver mullet and the top-water sea trout bite, which work out well as I landed three respectable sea trout in a matter of 20 minutes. At my second location I started moving in shallow looking for reds and started seeing tails in every direction. The only problem was the fish were working in extremely shallow water where reaching them was an issue, but they were everywhere and I manager a few on DOA Shad Tail Jigs. It was good seeing tailing fish again, especially in those numbers.

Returned to the Indian River Lagoon on Thursday and I decided to target black drum in some of the deeper channels and dredge areas and I found some big black drum and caught three in the 20 to 30 -pound range.

As always, if you need information and have any questions, please contact me.

Good luck and good fishing,

Captain Tom Van Horn


Spring run is the most wonderful time of the year



The full spring run of all species in our area is in full swing. Whatever species you would like to target, inshore or offshore, is as good as it gets this time of year. Redfish schools have shown up in the flats around Pinellas Point, but they are inconsistent. A school will be in one place one day, then gone the next. Time on the water is the only way to effectively track the day-to-day migration of redfish. Kings are being caught offshore. I have friends calling and telling me that the fast-moving pelagic species is eating every bait that hits the water. The only problem is the wind has kept us from heading offshore. I look forward to this time of year for one reason: I normally target redfish on a day-to-day basis, but the spring allows me to mix it up and target a number of different species. If kings are being caught offshore, then the next best thing to target: the brown bomber. Cobia are one of the most traveled species in the world. They can be found in every warm ocean and will swim around a floating object. I will travel countless miles in the bay, looking at every piling, buoy, day board and channel marker. If cobia are around, they will be swimming on the surface right next to the structure. All species of fish will eat just about anything you offer. I will stop at a bridge first thing in the morning and fill the well with as many types of bait as possible. I will usually get pinfish, scaled sardines, threadfins, grunts and ladyfish in the cast net. The No. 1 key to fishing is having everything possible to present to the fish when the opportunity rises.

Rob Gorta charters out of St. Petersburg. Call him at (727) 647-7606 or visit captainrobgorta.com.

Spanish mackerel, kingfish showing up in big numbers



They are here! Spanish mackerel and kingfish have shown up in the numbers expected of them at this time of year. All we have to hope for is weather that will allow us to get offshore. In most years the hot spots have been the artificial reefs, shipwrecks and channel markers along the Tampa shipping channel. This year has been an exception. On our recent trips we’ve started out by trolling Nos. 1 and 2 planers with small and large spoons over the high-profile structure that can be found on any of the reefs. This has produced a few fish but not what we hoped. Moving to the hard-bottom areas near each reef that we targeted resulted in some banner catches of kingfish and large mackerel. All it took was to see one or two birds diving into the water to reveal where the bait and their predators were lurking. Careful attention to the sonar reveals where the school of bait is, and the push of the GPS MOB (man overboard button) will allow you to return to the exact spot. Trolling hardware at 5.5 to 6 knots allows you to cover more territory in search of fish. There are days that hardware does not produce. That’s when it’s worthwhile to sabiki some baits on site and slow troll or drift with them in the area where the bait is present.

Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach. Call (727) 397-8815.

Offshore fishing heats up in spring



Spring is here and things are heating up offshore. Kingfish have arrived from Tarpon Springs to Anna Maria. Spanish mackerel are around many of the bridges and piers, and cobia have appeared on the wrecks. Our most interesting discovery last week was blackfin tuna. On the way in from offshore we spotted birds working over a pod of bait. As we approached we saw big splashes blowing up the water. This usually turns out to be bonito, but these splashes were much bigger. A dense pod of tiny Spanish sardines was being circled by a dozen sharks and around the perimeter were the telltale black backs of blackfin tuna. Periodically the tunas would rise and attack the bait pod, with many of them sailing completely out of the water. The hapless minnows eventually moved in under the boat for cover, so we shut the motors off and became part of the feeding frenzy. Nearly every cast with a topwater plug produced a strike from a tuna in the 20- to 25-pound class. If the fish went deep and stopped feeding, we would move the boat ahead, leaving the bait pod exposed and open to attack. This went on for 15 minutes until the sharks switched from gulping mouthfuls of minnows to destroying the tuna we hooked. With several 25-pound tuna prepped and on ice, we called it a day. Generally speaking, tuna feed best early in the day and a few hours before dark. If you go looking for them, get out at first light or in the evening.

Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. He can be contacted at info@lighttacklecharters.com.