Capt. Josh Fritz, 352-345-9304: Capt. Josh says the big gag grouper remain in very shallow water, even as water temperatures drop. The fishing slowed for a couple of days following the last cold front, but rather than move off to deeper water, the gags regrouped and gathered on the hard, limestone bottom spots in 8 to 12 feet of water west of Aripeka where they’ve been all fall. They are taking live pinfish well, but large plugs cranked over the rocks have been producing very well. Another possibility now is tripletail, which have been hanging on some of the crab buoys offshore. They take live shrimp well. Inshore, a trip to Fillman Bayou over the weekend produced a number of big reds and some nice trout. The fish were hanging in very shallow water over limestone and taking live shrimp best, but soft plastic flukes were working, as well. The fish were hungry on the incoming tide, but once it turned out the bite slowed a lot.
Capt. Mike Manning, 727-243-8918:Capt. Mike reports the fishing has been good. He’s being getting tripletail up to 10 pounds fishing live shrimp around crab buoys offshore. Inshore, fishing the flats off the Anclote power plant outfall right now could produce quite a bounty. The cobia are there, along with trout, snook, pompano and permit. He’s even taken tripletail there. Area creeks are holding some nice trout. A couple of warm days and they are out by the mouths and points nearby. If the temperature drops, they move inside. Live shrimp is good, but everything seems to be taking jigs well now.
Tackle shop roundup
Cooper’s Shrimp Shack, 727-868-8736: Bill says Hudson anglers have been sticking to the canals and doing well with live shrimp. They’ve been landing some nice sheepshead, and working around the mouths has been producing some good redfish. Reds must be released in Pasco waters, but the sheepshead and some small mangrove snapper have been going home for dinner. There also have been some reports of nice black drum being taken. Offshore anglers continue to enjoy the gag grouper party in shallow water. None of the regulars at the shop have been going deeper than 25 feet of water and some are doing very well in as little as 10 feet over hard bottom northwest of Hudson. There have been some large mangrove snapper on some of the same spots. There were some reports of Spanish mackerel taken over hard bottom in 20 feet of water and a few kings taken starting around 25 feet.
The Tackle Box, 727-819-3783:Buck reports the fishing has been good. Inshore species are starting their move into backwaters, up creeks and rivers as winter bears down, but there still are plenty of fish around the creek mouths and outside points. He recommends working into these backwater areas until you find signs of life. Anglers had been doing very well on gag grouper offshore before the last cold front, fishing inside of 20 feet of water, also taking Spanish and king mackerel over hard bottom. The big breeder reds are on the rocks offshore now, with Capt. Mike on the Reef Chief reporting an angler on his boat landing a 30-pound fish. There also have been some large cobia taken offshore.
J&J Bait and Tackle II, 727-940-7928: James says anglers fishing the outfall at the Anclote power plant have been taking some nice numbers of pompano and permit. There also are a lot of jacks schooling there. The trout bite is off and on. Lots of Spanish mackerel are around along St. Joseph Sound and offshore over hard bottom in 20 to 25 feet of water. There are plenty of trout and reds on the flats off the Anclote River, though many anglers have not been chasing them due to the closure on both species in Pasco and Pinellas waters.
One Stop Bait and Tackle, 727-842-5610: Joe reports the Spanish mackerel fishing is on. Inshore and offshore anglers have been scoring some nice catches of fish, which are schooling and chasing bait. Gag grouper anglers have been going no deeper than about 35 feet for keeper-sized fish, though a couple opted for even bigger fish in 85 feet of water. Inshore anglers have been doing well at the Anclote power plant outfall, where they’ve been taking some nice trout, pompano and permit. A few cobia have been hooked, as well. The pompano and permit bite can be frustrating, as it is off and on, with the two days of catching followed by two days of nothing is common. Many anglers have been reporting some large sheepshead in area canals. Live or frozen shrimp on the bottom will take them.