Captain Mike Senker (352-584-6297): Right now, the best bet offshore is to start fishing in 40 feet of water and get out, says Captain Mike. There are said to be resident gag groupers in shallow waters, but unless you’re diving and spearing them, don’t count on getting them to take bait in the warm gulf waters, which tends to sap their appetite. Inside 40 feet there is a lot of grunt around the rocky bottom. Running offshore on Monday, Captain Mike reported the water was fairly clean and clear despite the weekend rains. He thinks boats can now find themselves 60ft before anglers reliably hook up with keeper gags, and maybe a red grouper or two.
Captain Mike Manning (727-243-8918): Captain Mike is back on the water after a great season of tarpon fishing in Boca Grande. He reports that it was one of the best seasons in years, and everyone was happy to see the large number and large average size of the silver kings. For those looking for a good time offshore, it might be time to book a trip to the Middle Grounds. He was fishing 110 miles and the boat scored a mix of big 30 pound gags, jumbo red snapper, some scamp and mangrove snapper. Cooler, deeper water is just a better bet right now. For those who can’t go that far, it’s wise to start some serious bottom fishing at around 50 feet.
Hernando Fishing Tackle Shop Overview
Hernando Beach Bait and Tackle (352-610-4315): Sven reports that he received welcome news of keeper-sized trout in relatively shallow water halfway down the Hernando Beach Channel. The fish were much deeper on the grassy bottom, but it looks like some have moved around a bit, perhaps due to the cooling rains bringing down the gulf temperatures. Redfish have been fairly reliable for anglers working on rocky spots, oyster bars and flooded mangroves. A few snook are mixed with them, most being smaller males. Big nose feet are around the structure, sometimes in shallow water. Jenkins Creek at night and sunrise is a good place to connect with a big snub. A few black drums are in swirl pockets, along with sheep’s heads. Many small barracudas have been in the backwaters of the area. Offshore, there are still said to be keeper-sized gag groupers in as little as 12 feet of water, although they do not take bait. These slow trolling big plugs caught undersized fish at these depths. For bottom fishing, try 50+ feet for gags, as the cooler depths keep them a little more active and willing to take bait. Still, they don’t have much energy, and Sven said a giant live shrimp is a secret weapon for them right now, as they don’t want to chase a live pinfish or other nimble bait.
Dixie Lee Bait (352-596-5151): Mark reports that redfish action has been quite good along the coastal rock points, mangroves and Hernando bass. Live shrimp or freshly cut bait will catch them. Trout fishing was very hit or miss and lots of shorts can be expected. The shallow offshore rocks produce good catches of mangrove snappers. Some of the same rocks hold cobia. Pull out a backpack for the cobia and eventually they will find you. The problem is that a lot of sharks will be there too. The gag grouper fishery was poor. Don’t expect to find keeper-sized set fish unless you go deep, with 60ft or more likely the minimum to be successful.
Overview of hardware stores in Pasco and North Pinellas
The Rusty Bucket (727-645-6598): Bill says the weekend was packed, with lots of boats scalloping over the last weekend of the mini-season, which made it difficult for anglers to find spots away from all the traffic. Those who got closer to shore during high tides and fished dead bait did very well on redfish, picking up some snook as well. He advises increasing the tackle to manage the snook, because right now there’s a good chance a big will pick up fresh bait while going for the reds. A good opportunity for a fun family fishing trip is mangrove snapper fishing around the stilt house stilts off the Cotee River. Shrimp will get them and quick fish limits was an easy job. A few other species will be part of the catch, perhaps even a snub for those who fish early in the day. Offshore, Captain Dustin of FishNcrazy Charters put his anglers on some big action in 100 to 125 feet of water. Bottom fishing for snapper, grouper and hogfish has been strong, and flatline setting with live or cut bait can yield a number of species including mahi, tripletail, tuna black fins and even the trevally. Cobia are another good bet.
J&J Bait and Tackle II (727-940-7928): James reports that almost everyone was enjoying the last scallop weekend in the Anclote area, and reports were that many were doing well. It was very crowded, but the anglers who got away from the scallops worked the mangroves, rocks and oysters along the banks north and south of the Anclote River for redfish, doing reasonably well. Trout are scattered over the open grassy plains. Fish a little deeper than usual for the best action.
Tarpon Trading Company (727-937-1488): Larry reports that anglers fishing off the causeway at Fred Howard Park have caught a mix of reds, trout and snook. A regular at the shop reported seeing half a dozen snook peeking out from under the first causeway bridge, one of them being the largest he had seen in his years fishing in the area . The fish weren’t interested in taking any bait, but he said it was good to see they were there. Rumor has it that many scallops around Anclote and know where to find them did well on the last weekend of the annual harvest. There were so many scallops, fishing anywhere near Anclote Key was nearly impossible. Offshore anglers going down to the first hard bottom caught plenty of grunts, but a regular at the store fished in 50 feet of water off Hudson and caught gagged grouper and red snapper. It’s considerably shallower than many have fished in warm Gulf waters, but it illustrates just how wrong not to test the action en route offshore can be.
Cooper’s Bait & Tackle (727-868-8736): Bill says Hudson anglers fished for trout on the deeper grassy plains. Both jigs and live shrimp work. A few reds were caught in the channels, but most of the channel catches were mangrove snappers and sheep, which will take live and frozen shrimp on the bottom. An angler fishing in a channel just north of the bait shop landed a 39-inch goliath grouper. The species is protected and quickly released.