MADEIRA BEACH, Fla. - 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 Dec. 4, 2020.
Sheepshead have really fired up as the temperatures cooled down. They are really starting to get more and more aggressive and prolific around the local structures. Small pieces of fresh shrimp, cut clams or oysters, and especially the smaller crabs like fiddlers, mud or mangrove crabs are all great options for sheepshead bait.
You want to use either a very light knocker rig or a free line set up with some small split shots. Minimal weight is key on lighter tackle with around 15-20lb fluorocarbon. Smaller strong hook around 1ot or perhaps even smaller can work. These fish will bite right on or adjacent to big structures like docks, bridges, piers, jetties, seawalls, rock piles, and also around oyster bars.
If you can find a bridge around the mangroves with some oyster bars adjacent, you have hit the sheepshead honey hole. However, you can find them on most any dock or bridge this time of year and that will only hold more and more true with each front. These guys are tons of fun to catch and fight hard on lighter tackle around the structures. They can be difficult to fillet, but are great eating fish.
Mackerel were biting well over this past weekend with the great weather we had. This blow slowed things down, but once the water starts clearing up a bit we should see another great push of these fish over the weekend. They love the fishing piers, jetties and mouths of local passes. However, around the bay, people are catching them just off the grass flats in the deeper water hitting the dense bait schools located around the area right now. Early in the day is the best time to get them from around sunrise 'til the heat of the day starts setting in.
Trout action is picking up and were seeing larger average sizes on the trout too! These guys love those ambush points around the edges and potholes of local grass flats. However, we are seeing them around the bridge lights and dock lights at night too. Trout love lighter tackle and those slow moving soft plastics.
However, for live bait, a shrimp or green back will work too free lined out to the area they are lying in wait to ambush passing bait. Remember, often where you catch one trout there will be quite a few more in that same area.
Redfish action continues to be impressive throughout the area. We are seeing them through the day and night around the local passes hanging towards the bottom eating everything from cut bait to live shrimp to slow moving soft plastics. We are seeing tons of them around the local grass flats, mangrove shore lines and around local oyster bars enjoying that same array of bait choices.
These fish are never more easily targeted than this time of year. Just keep in mind, trout, redfish and our snook are still all catch-and-release only for the greater Tampa Bay area until end of May 2021.
Snook action is going well around the area. It's definitely becoming a little more spread out as they start moving and retreating up into the bay. However, we are still seeing late season fish caught around the passes at night surprisingly. Many are retreating further up in the bay giving way to more trout and redfish in the passes.
The grass flats of the back bay waters are really holding more active numbers of snook feeding well on live shrimp or greenbacks tossed out on free lines over the flats and even under corks too! They will also bite an array of swim baits, jerk baits and soft plastics right now as the juveniles are feeding heavily.
Near shore and Offshore
Hogfish action is going extremely well for us right now from around 30-70 feet of water. We are seeing plenty of these fish on our 5 and 10-hour trips targeting these areas. The live shrimp or fresh dead shrimp and light tackle approach is the best way to get a shot at some hogfish.
You can use a light knocker right, nekid ball jig, or a jig head for your tackle. You want around 20-30lb floro for the leader and around 3-4ot hooks. I like to use around a 4000-5000 series spinning reel with around 20-30lb braided line in the spool with about a 15-25 feet piece of that 20-30lb floro for a super long leader before my knocker or jig. This is a great approach used by many when targeting these great eating but super leader shy smart fish. They love crustaceans so you can use fiddler crabs, rock shrimp, sandfleas, and even other small crabs to target them but the live shrimp or fresh dead shrimp is the most common choice when targeting hogfish.
Gag grouper action is really heating up this time of year and will only get better until their season closes at the end of December. We only have a few more weeks to target these fish before that time. These guys are biting well near shore from around 20-60 feet of water if you can find those ledges or rock piles they are hiding on. They are super aggressive right now near shore and make a ton of fun to fight on 60-80lb leader. From the Skyway out to the shipping channel many are catching them either trolling or dropping live baits down.
Further offshore, we are seeing some big ones come up from around 100-160 feet of water. They love those big dead baits or those large frisky live baits. Big tackle, natural presentation, and patience are all key ingredients to get these smart fish to eat near shore or offshore. Then. that is only a small part of the battle the ‘reel’ struggle begins once they bite.
You got to be ready for battle and set that hook quickly when you feel them swallow that bait. Once you hook up you cannot reel hard enough and fast enough the first few seconds of that fight. Then, once you got them beat and up away from the bottom you can finesse them the rest of the way up to the surface delicately to ensure you don’t stress the tackle that went through that war in the first few seconds of the battle.
Red grouper bite is exceptional for the time of year, considering how it has been the last few years. We are seeing more and more of these fish from around 70-140 feet of water. The red grouper love big dead baits like whole threadfin or strips of bonita, whole squid or octopus tentacles.
They will also take live baits just like the gag grouper. Many of them we are seeing are in the 18-24 inch range which means we should see an incredible fishery for them in the coming years if we can ensure all those undersized fish coming up are being handled properly and released alive. It is so imperative we all work together to ensure our offshore species are brought up quickly, unhooked quickly with a good set of dehookers, then vented or descended if necessary to live another day.
If you toss back your first fish of the day and it floats away unable to return to bottom then the remainder of that day you MUST be venting or descending your fish or you are the problem with our fishery and its sustainability. Do not waste these fish that will be keepers next year and help propagate our fishery! Do your part and make sure to have a descending device on board rigged and ready or a venting too at the ready with the proper know how on where to vent the fish. If you want to learn more about venting, check out this article.
Mangrove snapper fishing right now has been stellar offshore and pretty good near shore too. We start to see mangroves around 50-80 feet, but we are seeing some big girls beyond 100 feet of water right now. This time of year we are seeing some large overall sized in our long range trips with some in the 7-10lb range. These smart fish are tons of fun to target on threadfin plugs with the double snell rig. However, near shore many prefer to target them on a knocker rig or jig head with live shrimp or greenbacks.
Yellow tail snapper are around right now too. We are seeing some of these fish mixed in with he mangrove snapper and some of them have been very large too. They will take a threadfin plug or live shrimp like the mangrove snapper but we target them specifically with small strips of squid around a ½ inch thick and about 2 inches long.
Lane snapper are more and more prolific from around 60-110 feet of water and we are seeing huge lane snapper right now too. They seem to only be getting larger and more prolific around these depths biting just about any baits from threadfin chunks to squid, to octopus to live shrimp when targeting hogfish or mangrove snapper in the deeper near shore waters.
Kingfish action is spread out but still happening offshore. We are seeing the occasional big kingfish on the troll or flat lines around 60-80 feet and beyond. These guys will hang around sporadically in the area, especially deeper where we get warmer surface currents from time to time.
Blackfin tuna time is approaching out past 80-100 feet. We see a big push of these fish in cooler months in our area and we are starting to see these guys coming up on the troll, flat lines and even knocker rigs. Just before sunrise on our deep water trips is the most common time to catch 'em flat lining or knocker rig fishing. While trolling for them during the day, we are catching them on the rapala xrap magnums and the Nomad DTX minnows.
Wahoo are around right now for sure.; You may get lucky while trolling for kingfish or tuna out beyond 100 feet of water and run into one of these beautiful good eating and extremely fast fish. They are ton of fun to fight and really will scream drag like no other fish. You sometimes will get lucky and have one swim up to the boat so have a pitch rod ready for these guys and other pelagics this time of year.