Fishing Report: April 16, 2021

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 April 16, 2021.

Inshore

The snook bite is off the charts right now through the area. We are seeing them flooding back into the passes and even a few onto the beaches already with plenty along the docks, flats, mangrove shorelines and bridges from the back bay to the passes.

They are extremely aggressive and prolific at this time. It's a great time to target these guys for some fun catch-and-release action. Remember, the next FWC meeting to discuss the catch-and-release only order is coming up May 12 and 13.

During the early morning hours, the top water lures on the flats have worked well this week. Throughout the day, on the flats and more shallow areas, the soft plastics are a great choice. At night, around the passes, the flairhawk lures are starting to get used more and more. 

Pompano action is going well around the area right now on those sandy areas around the bridges, passes and jetties. However, you can find them around the edges of the flats or the sandy channels. Even local fishing piers is a great opportunity to catch some of these great eating fish.

Drifting sandy passes is my favorite way to target them from a boat. Those pompano jigs or banana jigs seem to work best popping just along the bottom only around 4-6 inches off the bottom. 

Redfish action has been steady through the area too. Not quite as prolific and aggressive as the snook have been, but we have been seeing good numbers. The passes at night holding those redfish along the bottom on the bridge and dock lights.

During the day, around the flats, dock lines, mangrove shorelines and oyster bars are great places to look. Using slower moving soft plastics or artificial shrimp seem to be a crowd favorite for those redfish currently. 

Trout bite is going well still too. We're seeing along of the trout around the flats, islands, mangroves and even around the passes too. Trout love the soft plastic paddle tails, live shrimp, and even smaller pinfish. Look for areas they can stage, and ambush passing baits and use those lighter action slower rods for good hook sets on these fun to catch fish that have softer jaw lines than most. 

Near shore and offshore

We are seeing plenty of kingfish and mackerel around right now! There is some bait moving into the area and we're seeing some of these pods around near shore lately, but still not prolific as it has been.

However, the blue runners have moved in the area and we're seeing nice kingfish action around these bait schools that are holding to local areas of hardbottom structures. Keep an eye on that bottom machine for big bait shows around the artificial reefs, Egmont Channel or around virtually most any hard-bottom. You can troll or drift that area with great success for kingfish and some big mackerel.

We are seeing a lot of these fish trolling planners and spoons and those rapala xraps or nomad DTX minnows. 

The red grouper bite has been steady offshore. Around 120 feet of water, we are seeing some fat red grouper on the potholes and flat hard bottom areas. We're starting to fish those bait shows more as the water warms up. A few nice scamp grouper have been mixed in and those are always a welcome bonus when targeting the red grouper. 

Gag grouper open up in June and we should have a good year on them this year as we have already seen some big boys being caught lately as we hunt deeper for the fat red grouper and prepare for the upcoming red snapper season opening up in June too!

Remember, that time of year is incredibly busy on the water so if you want to book a charter or boat to get out there make sure to do it early and often. 

Lane snapper have been very active around 70-110 feet of water in the deeper parts of the near shore water up to the shallow offshore waters. We're mostly seeing these guys on the live shrimp, cut squid and small pieces of the cut thread fin on lighter tackle.

Mangrove snapper have been steady near shore around 60-100 feet of water using live shrimp or small chunks of threadfin on lighter tackle like the jig heads or knocker rigs. However, we are seeing some good action on these guys offshore beyond around 120 feet of water up to around 220 feet where we have been hunting red grouper. 

Triggerfish season continues but will likely be closing sometime early May. We should be getting that notice anytime so make sure to go deep and capitalize on them before that occurs. These guys are such good eating fish, but they got to be 15 inches to the fork which is a very large fish. We see them most frequently in deeper offshore waters in this keeper size beyond 100 feet. However, mostly we target them beyond 160 or so feet where we get the bigger versions. 

Amberjack season is supposed to open in May if there is quota left to be caught. However, the issue is that in 2020 due to COVID-19 that the fisheries intercepts and fisheries dependent monitoring surveys were ceased by state and federal agencies to protect from the spread of the virus.

This means there is no real data out there to show what was caught. Unfortunately, this leaves fisheries scientists in a place where they must use complicated data imputation methods to estimate landings. This is simply a very fancy way to say they are essentially guessing. They look at trends and other information and what little they have to guestimate and then apply historical landings trends to try and get a picture of what has been caught.

All this to say they are finally working on closing out the 2020 landings now and we should know within a week or so if amberjack season will open May 1 or not. 

Well, this week’s Gulf of Mexico fishery management council meeting is finally concluded and let me say, what a show! Unfortunately, there were illegal motions that violate the Magnuson Stevens Act that governs our fishery left and right. There were so many political agendas at play it was hard to follow.

I feel many lost sight of the goal of focusing on preserving optimum yield of our fishery in a sustainable way. However, I digress, the big news is that we will see a very modest bump in our ACL or annual catch limit of red snapper which will not really have much of any effect on season lengths.

But nearly three times higher OFL or overfishing limit will create a huge buffer if overfishing occurs for the fourth year since 2017. However, my concern is that we are going to have a MAJOR payback in the future once they complete this next stock assessment and confirm all this overfishing has been occurring.

Plus, when one sector overfishes all three get penalized and share that burden. It's going to be interesting to see how this all shakes out because the meeting concluded with the council passing a motion on these red snapper ignoring the data currency issue yet again for about the third year in a row.

This means we are still passing quota out in apples, but the landings are being measured in oranges here, bananas there, and pineapples over on this side and then all those are added up and thrown back in the apple cart. Just an incredible mess making certain there is no real clear picture of landings. This data currency issue was postponed until 2023 in the last motion of the red snapper area which means the agency (National Marine Fisheries Service or NMFS) will likely be forced to step in and just force the calibrations -- which is something they are always able to do, but they try to avoid doing and let the councils handle and manage their fisheries.

However, in this instance, the council was unable to reach a legal and viable option. Also, the red grouper issues in Amendment 53 continue and there’s likely upcoming public comment workshops on this issue coming to Madeira Beach in the next 4-6 weeks.

Currently, the council is discussing moving a large number of pounds from the commercial sector over to the recreational sector and there is going to be a huge outpouring of commercial fisherman speaking against this move. If you want to have your voice heard and look out for your red grouper season, then this meeting will be important.

Even if they move a ton of red grouper over to rec fisherman, there is likely still a much shorter season. Due to the new fishing effort survey private, rec anglers are being reallocated more fish because we have historically caught more.

However, it always shows that rec fisherman catches them much more quickly than historically thought as well. So, exponentially more red grouper to catch but with exponentially higher catch rates and efforts that extra fish get eaten quickly and seasons will be constrained as quota will be projected to be met earlier.

In the best-case scenario, with the most fish moved from commercial to rec we could see red grouper close as early as August or as late as November. Keep in mind, this is far away from being finalized and made into regulation and likely we will not see this take effect until 2022.

However, it will be important to keep an eye on this and SHOW UP to those public comment meetings that will be held locally soon. 

TERMS OF REFERENCE

INSHORE  – from the back bays out to the bridges and including right on the beaches
NEAR SHORE – from the beaches out to 20 miles, or up to 100ft of water
OFFSHORE – from 20 miles or 100ft and beyond 

For more fishing reports, photos, videos and more check out Hubbard’s Marina on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Snapchat. Just simply search "HubbardsMarina" and do not forget our family motto, "If you’re too busy to go fishing, you’re just too busy!"