Fishing Report: Halloween 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 October 30, 2020.


Lots of interesting weather right now and through the weekend with a weak front coming through today, then a full moon Saturday with a strong front coming through Monday. Following that, a very strong high pressure settles in and fishing will slow down the second half of next week.

The barometer stays static and high. This means this weekend is your BEST time to get out there between the fronts and take advantage of fish moving around during this transitional period. 

Right now, mackerel are thick through the area from Upper Tampa Bay to the beaches. If you can find schools of bait near structures or flats, the mackerel will be there. Long shank 1ot hooks and around 20lb floro leader free lining live white bait or the same leader with a fast moving 7/8th oz to 1oz gotcha plug is a great way to catch plenty. These guys make great fresh-grilled or fried fish or you can smoke them too! 

There’s a few kingfish around the Skyway and shipping channel too, mixed in with the mackerel as well. It's a great time to troll the mouth of Tampa Bay, around the shipping channel, or hit your local fishing pier for free lining big white bait or blue runners for big mackerel or kingfish.

However, make sure you know the distinct difference between a big mackerel and juvenile kingfish. Mackerel only have to be 12 inches to the fork and your allowed up to 15 per person. However, with king mackerel or kingfish you're only allowed up to 3 per person and they have to be 24 inches to the fork.

Mackerel have a straighter lateral line while the kingfish have a very obvious ‘drop’ in their lateral line. They can still both have spots, but the kingfish spots are typically very hard to see or fading, but a juvenile kingfish can look very similar to the mackerel if you don’t notice the lateral line differences. 

Snook are still around the passes and a few on the beaches, but this weekend’s weather will start to move them back up into the bay for their winter vacation.

This will likely be the last weekend of good numbers of fish around the outer bay area and passes. However, up in the bay and along the shoreline of the intercoastal, we are seeing good snook action along the flats, mangroves, and dock lines. 

Redfish action is going very well throughout the area. We are seeing some big schools of redfish around Tampa and even moving out of the bay through the passes into the gulf and along our beaches. It's a great time of year to get out and target the redfish on the local flats, oyster bars, mangrove shore lines and even in the passes.

Good numbers of redfish are being caught at night around local dock lights and bridge lights near the passes. These guys typically feed on or near the bottom even in deeper waters so if you're working a lure in deeper water you want to move it slowly and keep it near the bottom. 

Sheepshead are starting to show up in the area. We are seeing more and more of these guys around local fishing piers, docks, bridges, jetties and other local structures. Typically, around this late October-early November's full moon is when we see a big push of sheepshead to these areas for their winter time action.

We're looking forward to great sheepshead action even behind the fronts when the waters get murky these fish get very active and feed well. 

Mangrove snapper are still active and fairly prolific but as the waters continue to cool off and the fronts really start coming, then we will see these guys disappear more and more giving way to big numbers of sheepshead. 

Trout are starting to pick up and get more active as the water starts to cool. We will see bigger trout in the cooler months and they tend to get more aggressive too. Look for them around the flats and around the dock lights or bridge lights at night. They love slow-moving soft plastics or live shrimp or even greenbacks. 

Black drum action is going well around local docks and bridges and other big structure areas. The best baits for big black drum is cut crabs, but you can get them on live shrimp at the bottom too. These guys are bottom feeders through and through, so you need your bait right on the bottom.

The big ones aren’t the best table fare, but they are great fun to catch and release while the smaller ones are good to go. They must be 14-24 inches and your allowed up to 5 per person per day but you are able to have one of those give over 24 inches per person per day.  

Near shore & Offshore

The kingfish are here for sure! We are seeing lots of good-sized kingfish from the beaches out to offshore waters!

These guys are hitting flat lines, trollers, vertical jigs and even sometimes smaller fish or bait being reeled up from the bottom while bottom-fishing. They are getting thicker by the day, and we should have them in the area a few weeks!

It's a great time to get out there and troll some lures for the kingfish. Easy set up is a #1 or #2 planner with around 12-18 feet of 60lb test and a 6-8 spoon. However, surface skirted plugs work well too, but we have a lot of good action on diving plugs like rapala xrap magnum 20s, 30s, or 40s or the Nomad DTX minnows out deeper.

Typically, we will run a spread of baits with a few planners, a few surface skirts and then one or two diving plugs and see what works and then replicate that color and lure more in the spread. Trolling around 6-9 kts is a great speed for lures when targeting kingfish. However, to catch the big girl, slow trolling big live baits like big mullet or massive blue runners is how the tournament teams target the the 40-60lb kingfish.

They use stinger rigs like you would flat line baits but instead slow troll them just fast enough to keep the lines tight and baits organized. Some even use down riggers to slow troll their big live baits closer to the bottom where bigger kingfish typically reside. However, if you're focused on bottom fishing. don’t forget to have a flat line out to have a shot at a passing kingfish.

For the kingfish flat line, a stinger rig is key. There’s a video on how to tide a stinger rig on our fishing tips and tricks page here.

The mackerel fishing is more like catching right now. Kingfish might be thick but mackerel are everywhere from the beaches to around 80 feet of water. Any structure holding bait is loaded up with plentiful mackerel right now. If you get a livewell full of white bait and hit a big rock pile or artificial reef, you can chum up endless mackerel and perhaps even get a kingfish or three! 

The hogfish bite is really picking up right now. We are seeing great numbers of hogfish being caught on our private fishing charters, 5-hour half-days and 10-hour all days fishing around 30-80 feet of water. The ten-hour this past Tuesday had 20 keeper hogfish and most half-day trips are averaging 5-10 nice ones.

The private charters that go target them are doing really well with numbers ranging from 15-25 fish for just a few anglers. Live shrimp and light tackle is key for sure. We love the knocker rig set up or nekid ball jig but using a plain jig head with shrimp is also a viable way to target them.

However, they are some of the last fish to bite so you really gotta soak a spot to get to the hogfish action and once they start you only have a short window before they shut down and you gotta find a new spot and start over. They fight hard and eat great and it’s a good time of year to go target them near shore. 

Gag grouper action is picking up nicely. We are seeing some big boys out deep from around 70-140 feet of water. However, some of these fish are starting to move near shore as the water cools off. Around the mouth of Tampa Bay and the Skyway shipping channel, there’s been some good numbers of decent keeper gags caught. We are seeing some in the 40-80 feet range too.

However, they will move in more and more with each cold front. Big live bait and heavier tackle is key. Around the bay and closer to shore around 60lb mono leader while out deeper 80-100lb is more typical. 

Red grouper action is really going well right now from around 70-120 feet of water. It's a great time to go get a decent number of these guys and maybe even a gag grouper or two! The red grouper will eat some live bait but big strips of squid or whole threadfin dead work well too. Typically around 60-80lb test is good to go for the red grouper action nearshore to offshore. 

Mangrove snapper and lane snapper are biting well around 60-120 feet of water. We are seeing some big mangroves and lanes in fairly shallow right now, and the deeper you go the more prolific they are in number. Mangroves will extend offshore past 120 feet but the lanes typically get fewer in number past 120 feet. 

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