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 February 28, 2020.
Snook, redfish and trout are going to be catch-and-release only until end of May 2021 in our area but that hasn’t stopped them from cooperating.
The weather has been tough but the fish are biting when you’re able to get out there in between the weather fronts, dodging the high winds, rain and sea conditions. The bite should be best throughout our area during this weekend and the start of the coming week outside of Saturday when another small front will pass through our area.
Sheepshead bite is definitely the highlight this past week. Even through the more turbulent weather, the sheepshead are continuing to bite well. They seem to be at their height of the spawn which has them biting well around the flats, on the bay side and gulf side structure, and even on the near shore hard-bottom areas in big aggressive aggregations.
These guys are taking live shrimp, fiddlers, clams, oysters, barnacles – pretty much any crustacean presented to them. Sheepshead technique is very similar to the hogfish technique. You want to use lighter tackle and lightest possible weight with a natural presentation.
The only difference for the sheepies is that you are fishing right on or adjacent to the structure while the hogfish tend to be just outside or alongside the structure areas.
Redfish bite is a little tougher this past week but that didn’t stop some experienced anglers from catching decent numbers around the back bay mangrove shorelines, the dock lines in the residential canals and even some out on the flats.
Smaller live pinfish, soft plastic paddle tails and some medium to large shrimp seemed to be the best baits for them this past week.
Weather has been tough, and you got to find that weather window with moving water to get these guys to eat. When it’s colder out the early to mid-afternoon time in the shallower 2-4 foot areas, those are good places to target these redfish. They tend to be aggregated pretty well along the seawalls and underneath residential docks trying to soak up some heat too.
Snook action has been pretty good despite the weather. Most of these guys are coming up around the flats of the back bay and upper bay areas, residential dock lines, and a few on the beaches and in the pass prior to the bad weather.
When it warms up for a few days in a row they tend to start spreading out into the passes and slowly onto the beach but then as a front approaches they quickly head back up into the bay looking for warmer shallow water in the residential canals and the bayous and river mouths.
Large live shrimp, white bait on the flats and soft plastic paddle tails were the hot baits this past week for snook in our area.
Speckled trout bite has been great during the nice weather and pretty good during even the tough weather, if you could find a wind-protected shoreline to target them.
We saw some large speckled trout this past week as well around the grass flats during the day and at night around the dock lights and bridge lights throughout the area. These guys love the artificial shrimp or soft plastics. If you prefer live bait, the live shrimp or white bait work well.
Silver trout and whiting are biting consistently around the passes, channels and along our beaches right now. It’s a great time to get out there with the family and target these fun to catch fairly aggressive species. Whiting and silver trout both can be caught just outside the surf on the beaches, from the local beach piers, and around the local jetties.
At night the silver trout will even cooperate in the passes. They both like feeding closer to the bottom on slower moving soft plastics. However, you need a little heavier jig head to get casting distance past the surf and to allow you to keep it right on or just above the bottom.
Flounder bite has been decent around the sandy potholes of the grass flats, the sandy edges of the passes, and even a decent amount just off the beaches adjacent to hard bottom areas. We are doing really well on the flounder using our mud minnows or creek chubs we now have at our bait shop, but live shrimp on the bottom will work or slower-moving plastics. My favorite flounder lure has to be a DOA shrimp.
Before the front, mackerel were active around the mouth of the bay and along our beaches and in the passes. Hopefully, as the weather calms down and the waters clear up, that action will pick right back up for us.
Triple tail were thick along the beach and around the bay hitting live shrimp around the crab traps and markers prior to the weather at the end of the last weekend. Similar to mackerel, they should pick back up once the water clears back up.
Hogfish are biting well still near shore, but the trick right now is finding the weather to get out there to the fish.
We are getting a small-weather window today and then again Sunday and Monday. I would bet the best time to go get them will be Monday because that will give the most amount of time for the water to calm down, clear up, the barometer to stabilize and it will be right ahead of the next incoming weather disturbance which will hopefully have the hogfish foaming near shore.
The best area to target the hogfish is around 40-70 feet of water but you can catch them as shallow as around 30 feet. We see them fairly consistently up to around 90 foot of water. We even catch them offshore in deeper waters in excess of 120 foot but they become much more difficult to target as you get deeper on hook-and-line because there’s often so many more aggressive fish around ready to eat your bait.
This is why we seem to catch the most of them around 40-70 feet of water using around 1-2 inch pieces of live shrimp or fresh dead shrimp. Avoid using frozen shrimp or anything that’s been dead long enough to turn pink.
These guys like the fresh dead shrimp or live shrimp with the most natural coloration. Lightest tackle you can muster around 30lb floro and 3-4ot hooks with lighter lead around ¾ - 1oz is best. I prefer to knocker rig for them myself, but we have tons of success using the nekid ball jigz or even jig heads for these hogfish.
We are also seeing plenty of mangrove snapper around 60-100 feet of water and around that area, there are some really nice lane snapper numbers too. It’s a great time to get out there and target hogfish while enjoying a nice side of mangrove snapper, lane snapper and tons of the great-eating grey snapper or white grunts.
While near shore, don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for floating debris because we are seeing plenty of triple tail near shore under floating debris and crab trap buoys. The weather needs to be a little clearer to spot them easily but we should get this opportunity by the start of this coming week.
There’s some nice numbers of mackerel around just off the beach into the near shore waters right now. There are plenty of big bait schools around that are making these mackerel feed aggressively and it makes it super easy to find them in cooperative aggregations.
Also, we are seeing tons of sheepshead near shore around the artificial reefs, large rock pile and ledge areas. These guys are out there in spawning aggregations so you can find some massive sheepshead by happenstance while targeting hogfish or snapper.
Don’t forget the redfish too! These guys head offshore in huge schools to spawn off the beaches 3 to 50 miles away. We have seen these schools as deep as 150 foot of water offshore but they are mostly spotted right on the beach up to around 15 miles.
Keep in mind these are spawning aggregations so we often try to avoid them, and don’t target them, but occasionally you can’t avoid them. We often find that when we are anchored up fishing near shore, and one of these schools passes close by, they will inundate our boat. They seem to try to steal all the food they can, allowing us some fun catch-and-release fishing in the meantime. You got to make sure to hook and release them as quickly as you can and avoid causing undue stress or harm to a fish in the process of proliferating a species that is in some trouble.
Right now, offshore fishing has been nearly non-existent around Hubbard’s Marina. Unfortunately, due to weather, we have been stuck near shore fishing or at the dock.
However, we are looking forward to the March 1st opening of triggerfish and as soon as the weather breaks, we’re heading deep around 150-250 feet of water to get some massive triggerfish on the ledges and potholes.
While out that deep, we should see some big vermillion snapper, cooperative good-sized mangroves, possibly some yellowtail, big porgies and maybe some grouper. However, keep in mind, the deep water closure still is going on in the month of March so any grouper caught beyond the 20 fathom closure line (120ft of water) will need to be released back after venting the fish or using a descender device.
Make sure to never release a fish offshore and let it float away. We always ensure to vent or descend fish if they need it to avoid them floating off to die. Typically, when we get started on a spot, the first fish we release will let us know if we need to vent or descend at that fishing spot. If the first fish caught and release swims down quickly and healthy no need to vent or descend fish at that fishing spot. However, if the first fish released floats off and can’t get to bottom, we will net him up, vent or descend it and every subsequent fish after.
If you don’t know how to use a venting tool or descender device, you should not be offshore fishing. However, it’s easy to learn.
Check out this helpful link and click what state you want more info about. There are tons of helpful videos and information on how to vent or descend fish to ensure your released fish will survive another day for you to catch in the future when they are larger or their season is open. Click here.