Fishing Around Tampa Bay

2 – At Madeira Beach, Capt. Joey Massano targeting hogfish up to 6 pounds on ledges in 40 feet when winds permit, boating 15 of them on one half-day trip using cut fresh dead shrimp with fluorocarbon leader and 1-ounce knocker-rigs with 3/0 hooks on light tackle. Gag grouper up to 30 inches in 40 feet, but out of season. Gulf temperature 63 degrees.

3 – At John’s Pass, “tons” of sheepshead around docks on fiddler crabs, reports Capt. Dane Karcher. Winter mullet run in progress, mostly commercial fishing with cast-nets along Intercoastal and passes, but good opportunity to net some for the smoker. Mullet full of roe.

4 – At Fort DeSoto Park, gator trout going strong on shrimp or artificials, but of course the season is closed until Jan. 1. Brent Howlett at Stone’s Outhouse said about three of every 10 trout are over 20 inches. One boat released nine trout over 22 inches on D.O.A. CAL and MirrOlure Lil John jerkbaits in darker colors.

5 – Around the Sunshine Skyway and lower Tampa Bay, flats fishing holding up quite well for December, with water temperature 67-68 degrees and quality redfish, trout and snook active between blows, reports Capt. Shawn Crawford of Lakeland (941-747-3856). Crawford has been releasing snook up to 36 inches and said trout are “insane,” in 20-inch class on greenbacks, but both are out of season. Redfish the mainstay, both upper-slot and over as well as small, and there’s keeper flounder mixed in. Flats bite for redfish, trout and flounder keeping fishermen satisfied in Terra Ceia area, said Brent Howlett. Flounder up to 15 inches on Berkley Gulp! Shrimp, and Howlett said a couple of fishermen boated 21 redfish mostly on small side but 5-6 in upper slot along with 10-12 trout on a trip. Crawford said there’s scattered reds, trout and snook in the Manatee River, and that will increase when the water temperature dips a few more degrees. Plenty of greenbacks to net on flats right now.

6 – At Anna Maria, fall/winter mullet run bringing out hordes of commercial cast-net fishermen, keeping redfish, trout and snook on the run on the flats with so many nets thrown, said Capt. Shawn Crawford. He said there were so many people mullet fishing Wednesday that Kingfisher ramp was packed at daybreak, and 80-100 mullet boats were just north of Passage Key area. Medium-sized Spanish mackerel just off beaches and in passes Wednesday. Crawford said gag grouper ganged up on rock pile 100 yards off beach and were legal size, but season is closed.

7 – At St. Petersburg, flounder up and down last two weeks depending on cold fronts, but sheepshead have moved in at residential canals, oyster bars and rock piles around the shipping channel, said Capt. Jason Lineberger.

8 – In the north end of Tampa Bay, lot of rat redfish 12-17 inches and small trout 10-15 inches in upper Tampa Bay around Safety Harbor, A Channel and Rocky Creek, reports Capt. Jason Lineberger of Tampa (813-363-9474). His anglers casting D.O.A. plastics and Rat-L-Traps. Silver trout have moved in thick in usual hangouts, and Lineberger said they boated about 120 using 1/2-ounce knocker-rigs and tiny shrimp tail-hooked.


– Along the south shore of Tampa Bay, great bites for redfish and trout wade-fishing around full moon Friday, Saturday and Sunday along outside edges of flats at Cockroach Bay and Joe’s Bay, reports Capt. Jason Lineberger. His anglers were boating 25-30 redfish per day on live shrimp and 50-70 trout, mostly smaller but two 26-inch trout, a 27-incher and four redfish over the slot. Lineberger said don’t waste your time netting sardines — the crustacean bite is in full swing.

– On the Space Coast, pompano, mangrove snapper and black drum have been cooperating for Capt. Keith Mixon of Lakeland ( Stiff breezes have made fishing a challenge, but Mixon said pompano averaging 2 pounds willing to feed during outgoing tides on sand fleas and shrimp with 10-pound-test mono leaders and pyramid sinkers to help keep baits from rolling along on bottom. Mangrove snapper eating live shrimp or small pinfish near jetties on outgoing tides. Black drum averaging 15 inches feeding on cut mullet and ladyfish near spoil islands and channel drop-offs throughout Banana River. Rig baits on circle hooks during mid-morning hours for drum.

– At Fort Pierce, catch-and-release trout excellent on protected flats, with one fisherman boating a bunch all over 22 inches and up to 29 inches on Sunday casting D.O.A. TerrorEyz (No. 382, Holo Glitter color), reports Adam White at the Fishing Center of St. Lucie (772-465-7637). Redfish also really good around spoil islands and docks in river. Pompano decent on flats off Bear Point. Snook bite really good over weekend, but season ended Wednesday on the east coast. Sailfish doing well offshore all the way down to Miami and off the Keys.

– At Islamorada, Capt. Brian Cone and his Contagious team finished second in the Islamorada Sailfish Tournament Dec. 4 with 20 releases. Cone is a former Florida Southern baseball player who guides out of Islamorada. Capt. Taylor Walsh and the Bodacious team won the event with 22 releases. There were 261 sails released over three days.

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