Good Catch: By day and night, snook are active inshore

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Every Friday morning, Captain Dylan Hubbard of Hubbard's Marina joins Good Day to fill viewers in on his fishing forecast as we head into the weekend. Here is his fishing report for October 11, 2019.

This week, the inshore fishing has been good with some very active and hungry snook, redfish, trout, and some tarpon around the area day and night. The passes have seen the same species very active at night before sunrise. The mouth of Tampa Bay has held some very prolific and aggressive mangrove snapper, and those can be found during the daytime in most passes too, around the structure.

The bay's mitigation sites, rock piles and the ledges adjacent to the shipping channel have produced some nice gag grouper. Plus, mackerel are all over the beaches, local piers, passes, the Skyway and all around the mouth of Tampa Bay.

The live bait has been very prolific around the area on the flats, on the bridges, in the passes and on the beaches too. We are seeing some nice-sized green backs, plenty of glass minnows and some big threadfins on the beaches. These big schools of bait are holding plenty of predatory fish and making fishing more like catching if you can find them when the tide is moving and the fish are feeding.

If the school of bait isn't excited up on the surface that is a good sign the fish aren't feeding underneath them. Typically, when predators are feeding actively around a school of bait they will be in a tight quickly moving formation right up on the surface or against structure or a shoreline.

They will be ‘showering' which resembles heavy rain on the surface of the water. This is a very clear sign that the bigger fish are going after them under the surface of the water. Keep an eye out for this around the bay, on the flats, or on the beaches this time of year for lots of fun filled fishing action. 

If you are looking for something to take home and eat, the mackerel and mangrove snapper are your best bet since the snook, redfish and trout are all catch-and-release only until end of May 2020. Plus, they are lots of fun to catch with the whole family on lighter tackle. 

Mangrove snapper are typically around the bridges, piers, jetties or rock piles in the bay. They love shrimp, greenbacks or pieces of clam. You can use cut shrimp or greenbacks too for these aggressive quick biting snapper. They are great eating too, but they are very smart. Due to this, they are a little tricky to get dialed in on as they are a little leader shy and if it's not looking natural they will not cooperate. This is why lightest possible tackle is always best for these mangrove snapper.

I like around 15-20lb floro to start with a 2ot hook, and if you struggle to get them going you can even go lighter on the leader and a little smaller on the hook. The best method is free-line fishing for these guys as they will often eat your bait as it makes its way to bottom, but if the current is strong sometimes it requires a split shot or super light egg sinker.

I like to target these guys at the start or end of the outgoing or incoming when the water is moving but it's not quite cranking yet because once it's cranking you can still catch them but it's much more difficult to present naturally and also tougher to feel the bite as well. 

Mackerel are all over the passes, piers, beaches, and mouth of the bay. They love the free lined greenbacks or the fast moving flashy lures like a Gotcha plug, which is my favorite, or a casting spoon with a casting weight in line ahead of the lighter spoon. The trick with these guys is covering a large area with a longer rod for big long casts.

Let your lure sink deeply before starting a very quick retrieve. We often catch these guys at 7-9kts or around 8 to 10 mph trolling near shore and along the beaches. So, when fishing for them around the local area you can't really retrieve too quickly unless you're pulling your lure out of the water and skipping it on the surface. These guys hang from the bottom up to the surface, but I find often the bigger ones are a little deeper just like their big cousins, the king mackerel. This is why a heavier 7/8th oz or 1oz gotcha is my favorite, and why I cast it out and let it sink nearly to the bottom before starting my retrieve. 

Snook have been very active around the area both day and night, but typically snook are even more cooperative at night and that has held true again this past week. We saw them stacked up in the mornings around John's Pass and most local passes have reported the same. Plus, the docks with lights around the passes that have plenty of water moving past them have held plentiful snook too.

During the day, we are still seeing some smaller male snook out on the beaches in the 18 to 25-inch range. The bigger female snook can be found around the deeper areas of the passes during the day looking for opportunistic dead chunk baits on the bottom. Were also seeing some great snook action around the flats and mangrove shore lines around the bays and intercostal.

Typically, by this time of year the snook start making their way back into the bays and around the mouth of the rivers to hide out for the winter. However, this year we haven't had our first real big cold snap. In my opinion, this is why we are still seeing plenty of fish around the beaches and passes still. In the coming weeks, these fish will start heading further up into the bays and finally into the rivers and bayous for the winter -- where temps are more regulated. 

Redfish have been just as active, if not a little more active, this past week compared to our local snook population. At night, were seeing them around the passes hanging on the bottom feeding around the edges of the dock light lines. Also, around the sandy bottom of the bridges on the light line is a great place to find them.

Lots of local anglers have been successful on these guys bouncing a soft plastic paddletail with a weighted jig head along the sandy bottom adjacent to our local bridges for these redfish. In John's Pass, we have seen the north side of the bridge on the west side holding plenty of redfish on the outgoing tide through the nighttime period, but dusk has been the prime time just after sunset.

During the day, redfish are typically found around oyster bars and mangrove shore lines or the grass flats too. However, this time of year typically during the day you can find large schools of these guys moving together around the flats or out along the beaches or even just near shore for their spawning time.

When you are lucky enough to happen upon a school, try not to spook them with your motor. If you don't have a trolling motor, I like to coast up ahead and try to predict where they school will be and shut off the motor and catch them while you're in position.

Once they start moving away, let the school move well past you and then you can start your motor and give them a very extra wide birth around them before trying to set up for another hit on the school before they pass you again. This leap frog technique will prevent you from chasing them and spooking the fish and shutting down the bite. 

The trout have been a little tougher but you can find them during the day on the flats. I like to target the sandy patches around the flats. They seem to hug the edges of those sandy patches. Also, often when you find a trout, there's typically a handful more in the exact same area. If you hook a trout on the flats, and you want another, I always cast nearly in the same exact spot and try to replicate my previous action of the lure or the same live bait.

At night, we're seeing these guys around the lights of the bridges and dock lights around the passes too. They love live shrimp or the green backs free-lined out or the DOA shrimp lures work well. Tarpon are still around the area too. This warmer October has held them around our area much later than normal.

We spot a huge number of tarpon around the John's Pass bridge nearly every morning hanging fender lights right in the middle of the pass. Clearwater Pass has had the same large number of tarpon feeding around the bridge lights once the water gets moving. The Dick Misner Bridge, and also the Skyway, are also holding plenty of these large, fun fighting fish. However, if you want a shot a nice tarpon the time to go try is now.

I like a small ladyfish, big finger mullet, pass crab or large threadfin for the live bait when targeting the tarpon. However, if you want to use a lure, the flairhawks have worked for some pass fisherman, and also lures like the Rapala Xrap or bomber windcheater. 

Near shore
The mackerel are still very prolific around our near shore waters, plus, now the kingfish are being more and more cooperative around the near shore artificial reefs and bait schools moving along our beautiful beaches.

This past Tuesday afternoon, our afternoon half day pulled in around a 12 to 15-pound kingfish as we approached the John's Pass sea buoy which is only a mile from the bridge. Brian Harris, our live bait expert at Hubbard's Marina, has been catching plenty of mackerel around the beaches and out to around 3 miles lately fishing hard bottom areas that are holding bait.

Plus, this time of year, the stone crab traps have been placed along our coast line. These guys are essentially a chum block marking a hard bottom area. Plus, they have a line running from the trap up to a buoy to mark the trap's location. This line will often hold white bait from green backs to threadfins to sardines and more. Between the chum in the trap, the bait hiding around the line, and the sea life hiding under the buoy, the mackerel -- and sometimes even the kingfish -- will often be found around these crab traps.

Also, crabbers will only put their crab lines along the harder bottom where the stone crabs are crawling. They even make it easy by often placing their traps in a straight line. This makes trolling adjacent to the trap line very easy and typically very productive this time of year. However, you have to be super careful not to drag any lures into the crab trap lines. This will make you lose your lure and it's super dangerous for the crabbers trying to retrieve their traps from the bottom.

Around the mackerel are the kingfish. It's still a little early, and we aren't seeing them everywhere like we should be soon, but we are definitely seeing more and more each week. 

The mangrove snapper have been pretty cooperative this past week, as well near shore, in the deepest near shore waters around 80 and 100 feet of water. We're seeing some fairly active mangrove snapper bites. Also, many of the fish we are landing are fairly good-sized mangrove snapper for how shallow we are catching them. 

Hogfish action continues to heat up each week and this week was the same. We saw some really nice hogfish on our private fishing charters and a few on our 5-hour half days and 10-hour all days additionally, too.

The hogfish love the live shrimp, fiddle crabs, sand fleas or rock shrimp. However, I like to primarily use shrimp because it gives you a shot at a little of everything out there near shore and you have more action and fun while out fishing.

Plus, occasionally you can find some lane snapper, mangroves or sea bass while targeting the hogfish around that 30 and 70-foot area, where they primarily are found most often. You find plenty of other fish while hog fishing with shrimp too, like porgies or the grey snapper (white grunts) and it makes it very active and fun while near shore fishing.

Those shrimp can be a little tricky out there in the deeper waters since they come off the hook with the smallest nibble. Fishing in 30 and 70-foot waters with shrimp is a lot more challenging than fishing a dock or a flat with shrimp which is already pretty challenging when pinfish or snapper are around. 

Lane snapper are very active in the deeper near shore waters around those mangrove snapper and the deepest part of the hogfish territory from around 60  and 100 feet is where we are seeing the lane snapper. They love the live shrimp, but they will take squid too, and they are so good eating. Plus, we have been seeing those lanes more and more often as of late. 

Similarly, to last week, we have unfortunately not been offshore this week due to the weather and not having our big boat back from dry dock. However, that is going to change this weekend as our 44-hour full moon trip will be leaving the dock by the time you read this.

We are very excited to get them offshore and see how the fishing is after a long pause of these long range deep sea fishing adventures. 

Also, red snapper season did get extended. That is the big news offshore right now but this was not applicable to our boats at Hubbard's Marina, unfortunately. This was a private recreational red snapper season extension. This means you have to be on a private boat, not any type of charter boat to fish for red snapper during these extra days in federal waters. State water for hired anglers can fish in state waters for red snapper these extra days, but in our area that means nothing since we don't have red snapper of any size or consistency inside state waters which are from the beach out to nine miles. Federal waters start at 9 miles and extend out to 200 miles from shore. All our boats at Hubbard's Marina and almost any offshore charter boat in the Gulf that is running legally is going to be a federally-permitted vessel.

If you are federally-permitted then you are under federal regulation and this means our red snapper season is over and is not being extended like the private recreational red snapper season. This mean in order to catch red snapper on these extra days, you cannot be on any type of charter boat so no consideration of any kind can be exchanged to land a red snapper legally.

If you got your own boat, or if you can join a buddy on his boat then you can get out there, and go after these deep water snapper. The extra days are Fridays and Saturdays only from October 12 to 13, October 19 to 20, and finally October 26 to 27. Six extra weekend days to land you some red snapper. 

For us, we have everything open to catch out there except red snapper and triggerfish so even not being able to participate in the extra days we still have tons of fish to catch!

LINK: For in-depth fishing reports, sign up for the Hubbard's Marina newsletter by heading over to their website.