Fishing Report: Easter weekend

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 2, 2021.


Mackerel have been on fire around the beach fishing piers, Skyway Fishing Pier, along the Egmont Key channel and around virtually every pass -- especially in the first part of the day when the water is calm and clear and boat traffic has not picked up.

Just after sunrise until around 9 a.m seems to be the best time to target these fish on live bait, gotcha plugs, casting spoons, and other fast moving flashy lures.

Lipped plugs like the yozuri crystal minnow are a mackerel’s weakness but they get ruined quickly and you cannot cast them as far as a gotcha plug. Mackerel have tons of sharp teeth and will tear up your lures very quickly. That is what makes a gotcha plug or casting spoon so great as they are so resilient to the mackerel’s ferocious attacks and sharp teeth.

Using lighter leader, you may lose a few lures from time to time, but you will get more action. If the water is dirty, you can get away with a small piece of wire leader, but you really do not need it most of the time. Using live bait, typically green backs, are best with a long shank 1ot hook. The long shank J hook is typically most common and that long shank acts to ensure the mackerel’s teeth stay off your line, hopefully. 

Mangrove snapper are starting to really get active around the Bay Area. Towards the end of this past week, before the cold front started, we were seeing really warming waters and that was getting the mangrove snapper action going quite a bit around area structures and rock piles of Tampa Bay. The same places we have been seeing the sheepshead thick during the cooler months will now be home to plentiful and aggressive mangrove snapper through the summer like docks, piers, bridges, seawalls, and rock piles.

However, with this front, we should see a push of sheepshead. The sheepshead are still biting and are still consistent for those anglers who really have them dialed in well.

Typically, behind a front and in stirred up muddier waters, those sheepshead will get more active and aggressive as well. We are looking forward to a nice reprieve from the warming trend and it is exciting as this will prolong that transitional period where these cooler water and warmer water species can overlap. 

Snook have already pushed out on the beaches this past week early this year as that water warmed up quickly. This recent front may stunt that rapid movement to their nearly summertime patterns but should not totally reverse that either.

We have seen the snook get thicker and thicker around the pass this past week, especially towards the end of the week. Many anglers hooking up with snook at night around bridge lights and dock lights near the passes. Some are even going back to the summertime bridge fishing with flairhawk jigs like we see so commonly in the summer.

It's awesome to see so many active snook from the passes. Some are on the beaches and all the way back to the mouths of the rivers, bayous, and creeks where they hid for the winter. The snook bite around the flats in the bay has been extremely hot for many.

Some guys really seeing incredible numbers of actively feeding snook. If you catch that tide right on a flat where bait is active, the snook should be on fire. Look for them where the water is moving, and they can ambush passing baits or cruising the shorelines looking for unsuspecting prey. Held up in potholes at mid-to-low tide around the flats too are great places to target actively feeding snook. 

Redfish action remains steady and some of these guys are already schooled up roaming the flats and oyster bars. During higher tides, look for them on those mangrove shorelines cruising for shrimp and small crabs. We still seeing quite a few around the docks, bridges and passes as well in the area.

As the water warms, they are most active around the flats and bays and they will get lazier with the warmer water. That is when cut bait gets to be more of a great option while targeting redfish. 

Trout have been big lately around the passes at night on the dock lights and bridge lights. We are seeing plenty around the flats, mangrove shore lines and still docks too.

Nighttime trout fishing on dock lines this time of year has been great and there’s snook mixed in and redfish at the bottom. Those soft plastic lures are king for trout moving slowly around these areas. Paddle tails like the ‘slam shady’ from Salt Strong is a great option and seems to be a local favorite. Salt Strong even claims they have beaten out the DOA shrimp as the best lure for trout and others inshore, but you will have to get some to decide. You can claim a free pack of those lures here and just pay for the shipping.

Tarpon action started early this year around the Skywa and around Egmont Key. We have seen quite a few fish cruising the bay’s bridges even up to the Gandy. Typically, they really start to arrive in May and get crazy active by mid-to-late May but with them already starting to show up we could be into an incredibly early and very plentiful long tarpon run this year. 

Near shore and offshore

Kingfish and mackerel are still dominating the near shore fishery right now with many switching gears to target these fish. Plus, behind this frontm they should be extremely excited.

However, we have not been seeing the acres of plentiful live bait yet this year. Most of these fish are being caught around structures like the mitigation sites and inshore reefs. Mitigation sites are just a fancy way of saying that is where a lot of the county bridge material or old road or drainage construction material has been laid to rest. These make incredible artificial reefs attracting big schools of what bait is in the area followed by lots of hungry mackerel and a few kingfish.

Inside the Bay, from Port Manatee to the Skyway, along the channel, you can find plentiful mackerel and a couple kings. From the Skyway to Egmont Key area, mackerel are thick and kingfish are more likely. However, the Egmont Channel and those near shore wrecks listed here are really the best places if you want to catch a kingfish with a side of incredible mackerel action.

The trick has been slow trolling or ‘bump trolling’ threadfins or finger mullet around these areas to find the fish. Once you find them chewing, you can anchor quickly up tide and then start chumming with your favorite chum like Aquatic Nutrition’s Chump Drop.

However, the secret to really getting them fired up is hitting the local bridges, piers, or dock lines on the way out to these areas to cast net as many green backs as possible. Blacking out your live well as much as you can with live greenbacks or threadfins and then keeping as much as you can to fill a bucket too. Then once you get anchored up, start with the chum while slinging out a few handfuls of dead white bait. Occasionally add a net scoop of live white bait too.

If you are around those artificial reefs where you have found fish feeding, you will soon have a crazy show behind your boat and you will be able to toss lures, free line live bait on flat lines or continue to slow troll while having incredible action. We have also been trolling past these areas more quickly trolling those planners and spoons on the ride out and back from deeper near shore waters bottom fishing and the action lately has been great.

When the water clears up after the front moves on, they can get pickier and require more finesse like the anchor and chum method allows. 

Hogfish action has slowed considerably compared to what we were seeing October through early March. However, we are still seeing them, and they are still biting. We will see them through the year typically but the bite slows to nearly a stop once water really starts to get warm in the summer. If you want a chance at catching a hogfish, now’s a great time to get on the water and target them around 30-60 feet of water before it gets more tricky. Live shrimp around 30lb leader and a 3-4ot hook is best with either live or fresh dead shrimp. 

Red grouper action has been steady for us along that closure line, but yesterday, that deep water closure finally concluded and we're ready to head offshore deep today on a 39-hour trip in search of those super fat red grouper that have been out of our reach for the past two months.

The deep water potholes and ledges should be ripe with hungry red grouper right now around 140-200 feet of water. Plus, we should see some nice scamp grouper mixed in with them as we approach that 200 feet mark. Next week looks calm enough that many should be able to get offshore to deeper waters where these red grouper should be ready to eat in a big way.

However, we are getting to that time of year where those afternoon showers will start to show up, so make sure to keep an awfully close eye on the weather if you plan to head offshore. Near shore red grouper action has been a little hit and miss but right around that deeper near shore area seems to be holding a few red grouper ready to eat from around 70-100 feet. We can catch the occasional keeper red grouper inside 70 feet but it is very few and far between. 

Mangrove snapper have really been decent near shore lately but can be picky during the day especially in clearer waters. We see these often using that knocker rig for hogfish approach most frequently in the shallow to mid near shore waters. Once deeper near shore and beyond to offshore we see them most on that double snell rig option with a chunk of threadfin or sardine.

We are pumped to stay deep and target these fish now beyond that 20 fathom line that we have been tied to during the deep water closure. We have been fishing around 140-160 feet for mangroves at night. Then, during the day, pushing in shore a ways to fish ‘inside the fence’ where we can target red grouper and keep them.

However, now with the deepwater closure concluded, we can start and stay out in that deeper 140-200 feet area to really dial in on those bigger mangroves while hunting red grouper, scamp grouper, monster triggerfish and others like yellowtail, porgies, monster vermillions and have a great shot at pelagics like kingfish or blackfin tuna. 

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!"