As the weather cools down the fishing in and around Tampa Bay will heat up. September is off to a great start, with lots of different species biting. Snook are moving from the beaches back into the bays, canals, and backwaters and are being caught with both live and artificial baits. The live bait of choice is whitebait. Get plenty of them and live chum the area that you are fishing. Big schools of redfish are showing up in the bay as they start to bunch up for fall. Several of our customers are catching them on cut bait. Ladyfish and mullet both make good cut bait fished on the bottom. You may have to work through some trash fish but if there are reds in the area you have a good shot at hooking up. There are still plenty of trout being caught over grass in the bay. In deeper water mangrove snapper up to 5 pounds can be found hanging over structure. Lately the bait of choice has been frozen sardines. It is a good idea to have both live bait and frozen bait on board. Some days the fish will prefer one over the other. If you are fishing for snapper make sure to have a grouper rod handy, as the water temperature drops more and more grouper will move into shallow water.
During the latter part of summer, we have seen a red tide bloom offshore from the Taylor county coast down to north of Pinellas county. While it has stayed well offshore and has had no impact here in the bay, it can cause problems for offshore trips. Red tide is an algae bloom that depletes the oxygen in the water and causes fish kills. It is more prevalent when the water is warmer, although there is still some out there, we will see less and less of it as the water cools. Just to be sure, check the FWC web page before you run offshore to make sure that you won’t waste your time and money heading to a spot in the bloom.
As the water temperature drops heading into October, look for the migration of the Kingfish down the coast. The magic temperature is about 72 degrees. Anything a little above or a little below will be the right time to target these good fighting fish. You don’t even need a big boat to catch big kingfish. Every year there are some really big kings caught here in the bay trolling the shipping channels between the port and Egmont key. Another benefit to the dropping water temperatures is huge schools of redfish. Here in the bay, these fish are chased around quite a bit so you need to be careful not to spook the school or it will be over before it starts. Try casting to the edges of the school instead of the center because you are less likely to spook the whole school that way.