By Capt. Travis Yaeckel
Charging through summer, we have had some serious heat to deal with. The winds had been down and made for some really hot fishing conditions. Bay fishing, the deeper areas of the bay, has still been my primary focus, but I am looking forward to getting back in the shallows for the fall bite, which is soon to take place.
The mangrove snapper bite is still as strong as it gets fishing structure in 18-30 ft. There are good numbers of fish from 12-18” and it’s not uncommon to catch several fish over 20”. Live chumming (small pilchards) has been the key to getting the snappers going and willing to take a baited hook. Also, focus on fishing your best spots on or around the “slack” tides. This will let you minimize your weight needed and make free-lining baits a little easier.
There are still a few pods of Tarpon roaming, lurking around the bridges and mouths of the rivers feeding into Tampa Bay. The Little Manatee, Alafia, Palm, and even as far up as the Hillsborough River will all hold Tarpon for the next few months. Most of the fish are considered juveniles, averaging around 30-40 lbs., but there are plenty of 100+ lb. fish to be caught. A live pinfish, pilchard, or threadfin herring will normally get taken but like any Tarpon, they can be picky. Usually, first thing in the morning and late evening is a good time, especially surface for feeding with the low light conditions. During hotter parts of the day, I prefer to use cut-bait – either free-line or with a small egg sinker (1/2 oz or so) depending on how active the fish are. Fresh or Frozen Mullet, Ladyfish, Pinfish, Sardines, & Crabs will all make great cut-bait for hooking Tarpon this time of year.
Remember to “bow” to the king when you hook up and make sure to handle the fish with care when you are landing them. The smaller ones normally put on a show and can cause some damage if they end up in the boat. By law any Tarpon smaller than 40” may be lifted out of the water for a quick photo. Otherwise, they must be kept in the water at all times.
Inshore, keep your eyes open for the Redfish. Fish will be working north in the coming weeks. Look for mullet schools working the sandbars and flats on the lower tides to find the bigger schools of fish. On the higher water, concentrate on mangrove points and deeper coves where these fish will stage up and feed. A live or cut pinfish is my bait of choice but they will also take a fresh pilchard or threadfin herring.
Captain Travis Yaeckel is a native resident of the SouthShore area and charters full time for Redfish, Snook, Trout, and Tarpon. He is owner and operator of Instinct Fishing Co.,based out of lower Tampa Bay. To book a charter, call 830-FISH or visit www.fishbyinstinct.com. Catch him on Tampa Fishing Outfitters Radio Show on Sunday mornings from 8-9 a.m. at 1040 a.m. Sports Talk the Team.