Capt. Mike Manning (727) 243-8918: Capt. Mike reports recent cool weather and rains have dropped Gulf water temperatures a good deal. The fish seem to like it. He found trout to 21 inches and keeper-sized reds working creeks and mangrove points around them at Sand Bay, Westport and Salt Springs. Rocky or hard-pan bottom is where the fish are holding. A trip to the limestone bottom in 10 to 12 feet of water northwest of Hudson produced a quick limit of gag grouper. A couple of short fish fell for live bait, but the keepers took large Rapala plugs. It’s a good time of year for grouper diggers, as fish have taken advantage of cooler water and have moved closer to the coastline.
Tackle shop roundup
Armed Anglers (727) 945-1808: Capt. Griff reports anglers have been fishing the rock spoils along the north and south Gulf Harbors channels and taking some nice reds. A few trout are being taken, as well. Trout are on the flats north and south of the Anclote River, though many anglers have lost interest due to the closure on the species until at least May. Action at the north Anclote Park pier has been a bit slow. Shark anglers are still taking a few big fish there, with some paddling out in Kayaks to drop their baits 200 yards or more off the pier. Word is a few kings are being encountered on hard bottom west of Clearwater, signaling the start of the fall run.
Cooper's Shrimp Shack (727) 868-8736: Bill says his anglers have been discouraged from offshore fishing due to winds and rain, but inshore fishing has been decent. Working Hudson-area canals, anglers are finding the usual sheepshead and mangrove snapper, but also seeing a lot of snook. Live and frozen shrimp has taken a few reds, as well. There seem to be plenty of trout on the shallow grass flats but after 18 months of closures on the species, they appear to be growing weary and not bothering with them.
One Stop Bait and Tackle (727) 842-5610: Joe reports a few offshore anglers are signaling that the gags have made their move to shallower water. As the Gulf cools, fish are more comfortable in shallower water, which means shorter runs to keeper-sized fish. Many have been finding keeper-sized mangrove snapper around creek and river mouths up and down the coast. Mackerel are on the deep grass flats and just offshore on the first hard bottom in 15 to 20 feet of water. A local captain reported encountering schools of small kings offshore, and warned that the fish were small enough to be mistaken for Spanish mackerel and anglers should be certain not to mistakenly keep undersized kings. Kings must measure 24 inches from nose to fork of the tail, while Spanish need only be 12 inches.
Tarpon Trading Company (727) 937-1488: Larry says some nice reds are being caught along the causeway and on the rocks at Fred Howard Park. A few snook have been landed along with them. A bonus has been good numbers of mangrove snapper big enough to keep. Fishing the rocks and bridge pilings with shrimp is producing good numbers of them that measure 10 inches or better, the legal minimum. Rules permit five mangrove snapper per angler, per day. Schools of jacks and ladyfish are showing up all over the area as they tend to do as the water cools in fall. An angler fishing the Anclote power plant outfall canal reported taking a couple of pompano. The site is a magnet for the species in the cooler months. They take live shrimp and jigs.
J&J Bait and Tackle II (727) 940-7928: James reports his anglers are saying there are plenty of trout on the grass flats. Reds have been around the spoils and mangrove at the mouth of the Anclote River, as well as just north on the rocks and flats of Sand Bay. A few snook have been hooked at the river mouth, as well as in the mangroves on the back side of Anclote Key. Cooling water temperatures are shifting fish to a more active feeding pattern, so it’s a good time to fish.