Good Catch: Cooling trend and rough weather

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 18, 2019.


Courtesy Dylan Hubbard

We are finally starting to see a cooling trend along our back bay and inshore waters. This will have the fish on the move a bit, especially following this weather-filled weekend. There’s still plenty of bait moving around the area and that makes the local predatory fish extra excited. 

Between the cooling temps and plentiful bait, we have seen some good inshore action this past week. We have seen great redfish and snook action around the bays and in the passes yet again this week. Spanish mackerel and the occasional kingfish around the mouth of Tampa bay and along the beach’s piers. Few cobia are starting to show up around those mackerel and kingfish too, more cobia will be moving inshore along with more kingfish as the waters cool a bit more. Jack Crevalle have been active and plentiful around the area too, these big schools of aggressive fish are easily found busting on bait schools around the bays, passes and even along the beaches. 

The local bridges and passes are still holding active mangrove snapper and some black drum. Tampa Bay’s shipping channel ledges and rock piles are holding bigger snapper and the occasional gag grouper. 

As the water cools, we will continue to see more and more grouper action closer to shore. Trout action has been good along the deeper flats and at night inside the passes and around the beach piers hiding in the light lines attacking plentiful white bait and passing shrimp. We have seen some decent pompano catches this week and were looking forward to more of that with the cooling water trend. 

For the snook, we have seen these guys loaded up in the passes in the early morning hours. At John’s Pass around the docks each morning, they are stacked in the lights popping passing white bait, shrimp, pass crabs and pretty much anything else that swims too close to their hiding spots. The local anglers are using the flairhawk jigs, soft plastic paddle tail baits and DOA shrimp with great success for targeting these snook. 

There were also some snook on the beaches this past week with the local piers seeing some nice fish caught using some big live greenbacks, threadfins or jumbo shrimp around the pier structure. 

In the bays, the snook are on the flats and at the mouth of the rivers stacking up pretty good preparing for the cooler temps. WE will see more and more snook in the back bay waters and less and less on the beaches and in the passes as the waters continue to cool down. When the water is high, they will move more towards the mangrove shorelines from the flats feeding on what was trying to hide in the cover of the mangroves. Pinfish and large white bait are great options for these snook or a soft plastic paddletail. 

Redfish bite is going well around the bays; they seem to be less prolific in the passes though this past week. We are seeing lots of redfish being pushed into upper Tampa Bay due to pressure from anglers targeting the big schools of fish. On the southern side of the bay, we are seeing plenty of fish in big aggregations from Weedon Island out to Fort De Soto Park with fish aggregating on the flats and mangrove shorelines and oyster beds at higher tides. 

Redfish have been taking similar baits as the snook with big white baits or smaller live pinfish working like a charm. If you want to use artificials the soft plastics worked over the flats or skipped under the mangroves or the edges of the oyster bars works well, but an old favorite is a gold spoon if there’s not too much grass around on the surface of the water. 

Still a few tarpon around the passes and mouth of Tampa Bay, but I have a feeling the next week will put an end to much of our local tarpon action as our first few strong fronts roll through and really get our cooling trend kicked into high gear. I would suggest some 8-12 inch ladyfish for bait or some of the flairhawk jigs early morning to try and get in on some super late season tarpon before the majority of these fish disappear for the ‘winter’. 

The mackerel and kingfish around the beaches, passes and in the mouth of the bay are tons of fun to target. They love some free lined live white bait or even small blue runners. Once you find the bait you can target these fish with ease using the live bait or gotcha plugs or big lipped plugs like the rapala xrap lures.

 Mackerel and kingfish both enjoy a super fast retrieve on the artificial baits or a super lively live bait with plenty of ability to move around. The piers and most of the passes are loaded down with bait holding the mackerel close by most of the day, while on the beaches and in the bay, it takes a bit more looking around to find the bait on the structure or hard bottom areas. 

Near shore

Courtesy Dylan Hubbard

This week brought quite the active mackerel bite with some kingfish mixed in with them too. Plus, we continued to see some nice hogfish being caught as well. The lane snapper and mangrove snapper were a little harder to get too due to weather but we were able to catch a few this past week. Red grouper bite was tougher for us this past week as the action seemed more hit and miss. However, good news is that the gags seem to have started to move in a bit and were looking forward to the near shore gag bit improving! 

Mackerel are on the beaches out to around 12-14 miles right now, and at any point you can find a kingfish or two mixed in on the action. We had a recent 5-hour HUB private fishing charter this past week that enjoyed trolling up mackerel and a couple kingfish simply trolling from John’s Pass to the south county artificial reef and back. They were seeing double and triple hook ups trolling the spoons behind number 1 or 2 planners between 4-7 kts from 15ft out to 50ft of water. 

The rapala Xrap 20,30 or even 40’s are a great addition to the trolling mix to try and scare up a bigger kingfish or mackerel than the spoons. We also have great luck with skirted plugs with the lead bullet head keeping it far back in the spread on a ‘shotgun’ rod. 

You can target these fish by drift fishing around the artificial reefs with lighter tackle and live white bait too creating a chum slick with greenbacks, but many will anchor up and create the chum slick bringing the fish to them and keeping them around the boat by throwing out occasional net fulls of the live white bait. 

The hogfish are still around 30-70ft of water loving live shrimp and 20-30lb floro leaders with 3-4ot hooks. Using the minimal tackle and minimal weight helps you present a more natural bait presentation and also helps you to entire more bite action. However, hogfish take some patience because they are always the last fish to feed on a spot and you really have to fish through some by catch before they start to cooperate. 

Once they do start biting you don’t have much time until it stops so you have to capitalize on what you can. The rule of thumb with these guys is once you hook one, there’s more down in that area but once the bite stops for a while its time to move onto the next one and work at getting ‘em going again. 

It’s not uncommon to take 45 minutes up to an hour for these guys to start chewing after sorting through lots of the aggressive grey snapper (White grunts), juvenile red grouper, possible lanes or vermillion if your closer to 70ft of water. It seems the last thing to bite is heavy porgy action and then right after the porgies start to chew the hogfish are next. As quickly as they start, they will shut down so make sure your ready to get what you can while you can! 

The grouper bite is in the deepest near shore waters right now around 70-80ft or more. We were doing pretty well on red grouper the last few weeks, but they have seemed to slow down while we are starting to see a few gags. We’re hoping that the gag grouper bite will continue to get better as it typically does while the water is cooling down near shore. Live pinfish or big live shrimp have worked well for the gag grouper, but whole dead threadfins will work too with 60-80lb test and 6-7ot circle hooks would be the tackle of choice for these near shore gag grouper. 


Courtesy Dylan Hubbard

We were able to get offshore a few times this week on some long-range fishing trips, we had a 44-hour full moon trip this past weekend followed by a mid-week 39-hour trip. Plus, the 12 hour extreme got out there offshore too this past week. 

We are happy to report we are seeing some cooperative amberjack finally, bigger mangrove snapper action, some nice gags and decent scamp with some red grouper scattered in. Plus, up on the surface some big kingfish are around and the occasional blackfin tuna has been caught as well. Great time to get out deep, but as the weather deteriorates this weekend, we are wondering we will get another chance as these cold fronts start rolling. 

The private recreational red snapper season we are unable to participate in had a great first weekend of catching, but the next two weekends don’t look too promising for the smaller private rec boats to get offshore as cold fronts threaten both remaining weekends. 

Amberjack have been a little tough lately, but they seemed to pick up for us this week. On both long-range party boat trips we had plenty of amberjack bites but not many anglers could capitalize on landing these fish. They will run you into the ledge, wreck or whatever they can find to break you off whenever possible. We lost most of the jacks that were hooked to this, or the sharks. 

However, those who were most successful used the old slow dropping method to land their fish. This requires you to rig up with 80-100lb test and big 7-10ot circle hooks with a big ole’ live bait and once ready you drop this bait down until you can’t quite see it anymore (around 50-80ft down depending on visibility) and then from there you slowly let it go to bottom only letting line out every few seconds and only a small amount at a time. This really keeps the live bait healthy and happy and moving around nicely, plus, it rings the dinner bell to any big jacks at the top of the water column. Plus, when you hook a fish well off the bottom or even half way to the bottom you have a much higher chance of landing that fish successfully and not getting broke off in the structure at the bottom. 

If you rocket your bait to bottom typically the bait will be dead or mostly dead by the time it gets to bottom, and you have to retrieve any hooked fish past all the obstacles that threaten to break you off. 

The mangrove snapper get a little less prolific this time of year as the water continues to cool down out deep, but we typically see a larger average sized fish and that held very true through the mid-week 39-hour trip this week at Hubbard’s Marina we saw a 5-7lb mangrove snapper pretty consistently throughout that trip. This past weekend’s 44 hour fished a little shallower closer to 120-140 and didn’t do quite as well as we would have liked for the mangrove snapper. 

Gag grouper will really be moving around nicely and ready to cooperate were hoping behind this tropical storm that will be moving right over our offshore fishing areas. The big area of low pressure with stir up the water cool down the temps and also get these fish moving around and ready to cooperate. Were really looking forward to a great winter time gag grouper bite as water temps continue to fall!