Fishing Report: Feb. 19, 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 Feb. 19, 2021.

Inshore

Sheepshead continue to bite well around our area. We recently got a big order in of fiddler crabs and that has only helped us to catch more of these great-eating fish around the docks, bridges, and jetties around our area too.

They love fiddler crabs, small but strong hooks and light leaders with minimal weight. These sheepshead will continue to bite well for a few more weeks so get them while they are thick now! As the water warms up, they will spread out and become harder to find, but they do bite continuously through the year.

Right now, there is a good number of them around the rock piles of Tampa Bay too, but most are caught and targeted around bridges and docks of the bay, canals and passes. 

Spanish mackerel showed back up this past week around our local fishing piers and along our beaches. The water warmed up a bit and these guys are really pretty early but a welcome sight to many anglers who enjoy fishing those beach piers and jetties. They love chasing fast-moving, flashy lures like the casting spoons behind a casting weight or those gotcha plugs retrieved quickly through or around those bait schools hanging by structure like the piers or jetties. 

Whiting and silver trout are also biting well around the beaches and passes and beach piers as well. These guys can be found from the beach just past the surf, along the local jetties, and from those piers along the beach like big pier 60, Fort De Soto’s Gulf Pier, the Anna Maria Island Pier, or the Cortez Beach Pier! 

Snook action is going well along the flats, residential canals, and mangrove shorelines this past week. With the recent warm up they were really biting in more of a springtime pattern and moving away from that wintertime dock line pattern, but were still seeing them in both areas. They also showed back up in the passes and many did well around the docks and bridges of local passes too. We even witnessed a nice 32-inch snook caught from our dock while our bait guy brian was targeting sheepshead with a fiddler crab! 

Redfish action is going well around the area too and they continue to be super active. These guys are in rather good concentrations around the bays especially along those grass flats and mangrove shorelines in around 2-4 feet of water. The cut bait worked well this past week for the redfish, but as always, the slower moving soft plastics are a crowd favorite to target redfish. 

Trout action remains incredibly good this time of year in the bay and along the intercoastal all the way through the passes. We are seeing plenty of these fish around dock lights and bridge lights at night. During the day, the flats, mangroves, dock lines and even passes are all holding trout.

Greenbacks and live shrimp are go to live baits for trout on light tackle and the soft plastic shrimp or paddle tails are great artificial baits. However, one of my favorite methods is early morning or dusk a top water lure on the shallower flats using a top pup mirror lure for some top water action. Top water action is always best around first or last light or during very overcast days. If the water is clean and there is plenty of light, the topwater game is awfully slow to produce. 

Snook, redfish, and trout remain catch-and-release only through end of May 2021 in our area. However, at the upcoming FWC commission meeting on February 25 and 26th, the commission will be discussing the staff’s recommendation on removing this mandatory catch-and-release for these three inshore species in our area. This is some great news to many anglers as the species populations are showing huge increases locally.

If you would like to give comment on this issue you can attend this meeting and speak publicly during the agenda item discussion which should occur Friday morning, or you can submit advanced written comment by 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 19. Here’s the link to the agenda and the advanced comment submission link is at the top of the agenda. 

Pompano action has really picked up around our area this past week. We are seeing them from the east side of Upper Tampa Bay to the beaches. These guys love fiddler crabs, sand fleas or live shrimp on the bottom around those sandy edges of the flats or channels.

If you prefer artificials the small bucktails with the ‘feathers’ or ‘hair’ trimmed back just behind the apex of the hook or the doc’s goofy jigs are best for the pompano action. These fish are incredibly good eating but harder to really target as they move around so much. Local bridges, jetties, and along the beaches would be my go to areas to try and catch one of these fish and the bite should only improve over the next few weeks. 

Near shore and offshore

Hogfish action continues to impress near shore right now. This past week the bite was good but a little softer than it has been overall but that has a lot to do with the turbulent weather.

These guys are still biting best around 40-60 feet of water, but you can find them as shallow as 30 feet up to around 90 feet fairly frequently.

We catch them deeper, but they are most commonly targeted in shallower because it’s easier to get them to chew near shore in that 40-60 feet range. Once you go deeper, there is so many more other aggressive fish around to get your bait to those leader-shy and unaggressive hogfish.

They are one of the last fish to eat on a spot, so it takes some patience to really dial in on these guys using hook and line.

However, using lighter tackle around 30lb floro 3-4ot hook and minimal weight really helps you get a great chance at getting them to eat. Live shrimp continues to be the favorite bait for targeting hogfish but fiddler crabs, sandfleas, and rock shrimp work well too and help cut down on the bycatch. 

Lane snapper are really tick near shore around 50-110 feet of water and we're seeing some nice ones on virtually all our near shore trips, especially when targeting hogfish using light tackle and live shrimp were seeing some quality lane snapper caught.

These guys will also take small pieces of squid or chunks of threadfin too.

Mangrove snapper action is going super well for us around 110-140 feet of water offshore but were seeing some good numbers near shore and some good sizes around 50-90 feet too! In shallower water, using live shrimp is a great method to target the mangroves using the same knocker rig method we use for hogfish.

In deeper offshore waters, we prefer that threadfin plug and double snell rig approach. Both are outlined on the fishing tips and tricks section of our website here.

Red grouper action is going well around that deepest water close to the closure line. The deep-water closure or 20 fathom closure continues through the end of March but that hasn’t slowed us down from seeing some nice red grouper around 100-120 feet of water.

Fishing potholes, hard rock bottom and small ledges were seeing some nice hungry red grouper mixed in with steady mangrove, lane, and vermillion snapper action too. 

Scamp grouper are mainly caught out deeper past the 120 feet mark, but we have seen some nice fish caught lately even in the open area when fishing around 120 feet for those red grouper where we can keep them! The scamp love smaller pinfish or threadfins most of the time. Also, we catch them often while targeting mangrove snapper with the double snell rig and lighter tackle. 

Blackfin tuna are around right now occasionally past 100 feet of water. They have not been super on fire like past years this January and February but we're hoping the full moon coming up will bring us a good push of these fish. We catch them flat line fishing while bottom fishing or while trolling between spots most of the time.