Good Catch: Redfish are still biting 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 4, 2019.

Inshore
More clear water again this past week with the beautiful weather makes finding the bait fish and predatory fish you're targeting very easy. However, it does make it a little more difficult to get the fish feeding if you're using tackle that's a little too heavy. Similar to last week, the live bait, like greenback and glass minnows, has been thick around the area in the bays, passes and along the beaches. These schools are making lots of fish excited and ready to cooperate with local anglers. 

The snook action has been very good, yet again, this week around the area. Lots of anglers are doing well in the wee hours of the morning, fishing the outgoing tides in the passes using live pigfish, pass crabs or big live shrimp for the snook. The lures that worked well this week were the wind-cheater hard jerk baits and the flair hawk style jigs for these early morning snook.

The biggest snook love the big cut dead baits on the bottom, but they are definitely a little fewer and further between than the around slot-sized snook that seem to be the most prolific.

LINK: Here's video of the snook loaded up around the docks eating shrimp and finger mullet like crazy.

If you want to target snook and don't have a boat, the best place to get a great shot at them is around the local passes like Blind Pass, John's Pass, Pass-A-Grille, or even a bridges around the bay. For example, John's Pass has had snook so thick around before sunrise -- as you can see in the video above. The outgoing tide flushes all the bait and shrimp out of the pass and the snook stack up in the pass waiting to ambush flushing prey. This makes it really easy to catch a few as long as you are presenting your live bait or lure, very naturally, in the strike zone near the areas the snook are hiding in the lee of the current near structure. 

Redfish bite is going well around the area too. Lately, around the passes, the redfish bite has gone very well at night, but were still seeing a few during the day cruising the passes.

Along the beaches, passes, or in the bay along the flats you can sometimes spot a school of hungry fish moving along together and this makes it catching -- not fishing. Redfish are schooling up for their brief migration offshore a ways to spawn before returning to their home in the back bay waters. 

During the daytime, they are more likely found along the mangrove shore lines, grass flats or the edges of the oyster bars in the back bays. However, at night they seem to be hanging below the active snook in the passes. Inside John's Pass, the past few nights, many anglers have caught some respectable redfish on crabs along the bottom, live pinfish or big live shrimp.

Keep in mind, redfish are primarily going to be feeding on or near the bottom while the snook are up higher in the water column or on the surface. 

On the beaches, the whiting action is still going very well, and they are tons of fun to fight on lighter tackle. Luckily, on the beach, there's nothing you have to worry about as far as structure, so using ultra-light tackle still enables you to land some decent-sized fish. Besides whiting on the beach, there's plenty of mackerel cruise the surf around areas that have the live bait present. Lots of fun to happen upon a school of aggressive mackerel while fishing light tackle for whiting along our beautiful Gulf beaches. 

Mackerel are also very active around the local passes and piers. The Skyway fishing piers, the bay and Gulf piers of Fort De Soto and Big Pier 60 all are holding plenty of hungry and aggressive mackerel ready to attack any free-lined green backs, shrimp or live pinfish into the current.

My favorite set up for the mackerel is a longer 7 to 8-foot rod to give me plenty of casting distance with a 7/8th-1oz gotcha plug with 10 to 15-pound braid and a 20-pound floro leader. You cast as far as you can up current and let the jig sink to the bottom then start to retrieve very fast and occasionally give a brief pause and light twitch before starting to retrieve quickly again. I start very fast and then if the fish aren't cooperating I will slow down a bit and as soon as I get one to bite, the goal is to continue to replicate that speed and retrieve that was successful into enticing a bite. 

It's still pretty early for active sheepshead and heavy pompano action around the jetties and bridges locally, but they should be on the way soon as water temps continue to cool off a bit. Luckily, there's still plenty of mangrove snapper around ready to devour any chummers that you toss into the current. Light tackle in the 10 and 20-pound range and a piece of shrimp or green back is my favorite method for targeting these fun-to-catch and great eating aggressive snapper. 

Near shore
Big news near shore this week is the plentiful mackerel and the hogfish bite getting pretty good. The kingfish are around but not in huge cooperative numbers at this time. I am confident the next full moon will bring us a big push of kingfish and that's only about two weeks away. 

The mackerel on the other hand are super thick around the area and very willing to cooperate whether you're trolling, chumming and using live bait, or casting plugs into actively feeding schools near shore. If you are cruising along, and find one of those ‘showering' bait schools in the near shore waters from the beaches out to about 12 to 14 miles, there's most likely hundreds of mackerel underneath causing the bait to be forced up to the surface in a tight chaotic ball. This allows you an easy target as you want to work the edges of the bait ball for nice mackerel and perhaps the occasional early season kingfish.

Trolling is tons of fun with the number one or two planners and the mackerel to kingfish spoons in the 3 to 8-inch range, and the Rapla Xrap plugs work well too in the 20 and 30 sizes.

However, drifting around the school and casting the gotcha plugs with ultra-light tackle is super exhilarating as these are super-fast explosive fish when they strike the lure. Another great method is to anchor or drift along the school with a large amount of cast netted white bait, typically green backs. I will keep a bucket full or two of white bait without water specifically to chum with and then a live well full of live ones to use for bait.

The dead ones are just thrown out around the boat to keep the school of fish close by while the live ones are casted along the edges of the chaotic school of fish. Occasionally, I will sprinkle in a net full or two of the live white baits to keep the fish you've tricked to hang around your boat interested and feeding. 

Besides the mackerel action, the hogfish bite is finally going well enough. I would call it "good" instead of just getting better and better. However, this will only improve until the hogfish bite gets "hot" coming soon.

Right now, we are averaging a half-dozen or so on most of our near shore trips and the amount of keeper-sized hogfish varies from day-to-day and depth of water we can reach. We find hogfish from around 30 and 70too of water typically, but right now were catching more of them and most of those caught are keeper-sized closer to 50 and 70 feet of water.

Hogfish love live shrimp, live fiddler crabs, sandfleas, or rockshrimp for bait. Keep in mind, that fresh dead or fresh dead fiddlers will work as well. Often, because shrimp get used so quickly near shore around the active bottom species you need 20 and 60 dozen to go out and target hogfish with a group of anglers. People will opt for the fresh dead shrimp since they are a little easier on the budget.

Also, it's hard to keep that number of shrimp alive unless you have a fancier live well set up. We will often use our fish box or a cooler to store small bait buckets stuffed with shrimp, while they are not getting fresh water, they will not be lively when we start fishing. The cold water preserves them nicely, and they do live a surprising amount of time in cooler water. This also keeps them fresh as well.

Something about the pink, rotten shrimp turns those hogfish off. The more natural-colored -- typically brown or tan or lighter-colored shrimp -- are the better option over the pink shrimp. Also, frozen shrimp seem to work well for chum to get the other fish fed and the hogfish excited, but they don't work well for hogfish bait as they come off the hook easy, and they are typically more predominately not fresh.

When targeting the hogfish, lighter tackle is always better and lighter weight is always better because you want to most natural presentation possible. 

We are seeing a decent red grouper bite on the HUB 10-hour all day trips. We are running right now when fishing around 70 and 100 foot of water. They love the live bait like pinfish or pigfish but my favorite bait for the red grouper are the cut strips of squid wing cut to mimic an octopus tentacle. 

The lane snapper action is going very well near shore, and we're seeing some nice mangrove snapper bite mixed in with the lane snapper too around 80 and 110-foot of water or the deepest near shore waters is the best place to target these great eating snapper, and perhaps catch a red grouper or two along the way. 

While bottom fishing near shore, always have a pitch rod ready. We have been spotting some very large and great eating cobia cruising up to our boats the past week. We had a 60-pound cobia last weekend and then another just over 70-pound cobia caught this week. They love tail-hooked live pinfish on 40 to 50-pound floro leader with a 5ot circle with 30 to 40-pound braid on a 5000-8000 series spinning reel. 

Offshore

We unfortunately haven't been offshore too much as of late since our boat is in dry dock we have not ran any recent 39 or 44 hour trips and the east breeze from the high pressures has been causing our offshore waters to be too rough for our Flying HUB 2 to ‘fly' out to the offshore waters.

Due to this, we haven't been fishing past 20 tp 30 miles this past week at all. However, we know the gag grouper bite is going pretty good out there, and we're excited to get back on them. Around 160 to 200 foot of water is the hot area still for the gag bite with some really nice scamp mixed in as of late.

The red grouper bite out deep has been a little tough. They seem to be cooperating better for us around 100 and 140 feet of water. Mangrove snapper are pretty active throughout the offshore waters up to and just past 200 foot of water on the threadfin plugs and double snell rigs.

Also, mixed in with the mangroves around 150 and 200 foot, we have seen some very large and plentiful big vermillion snapper. Offshore, the kingfish are already pretty thick and prolific, and we are seeing cobia out there too like the near shore waters. The blackfin tuna are a little sporadic but still around. Never forget your flat line and a pitch rod while out offshore fishing this time of year.

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