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 Jan. 29, 2020.
Sheepshead continues to impress around the area right now. This coming week, we have a couple of weather events that should only continue to cool the area while heating up the sheepshead action.
These guys don’t mind the bad weather and when the water gets murky, they seem to get more active while other species calm down. Sheepshead are virtually everywhere on any structure -- from the shipping channels and rock piles of the bay to the seawalls and bridges of the back bay and everywhere in between.
Docks and piers are popular hot spots but if it can grow barnacles or hold a crab or shrimp. The sheepshead will be around this time of year ready to eat. Shrimp is an easy bait to get and target those sheepshead but fiddler crabs are one of their favorites. I also like the cut clams or oysters for great sheepshead action.
These guys have very hard mouths, so you have to set the hook on them well, but they also have very small mouths, so smaller hooks are required. They are right on or near the structure so making sure your bait is in their strike zone is particularly important. Using minimal weight while being able to keep the bait on or near the structure is the key. Also, being able to feel that quick bite is tricky but a lot of fun to master. Plus, these guys are one of those great eating inshore fish you can take home to eat too! Sheepshead must be twelve inches total length to keep and you're allowed up to eight fish per person.
Trout, on the other hand, along with redfish and snook, are all still catch-and-release only. However, we are seeing plentiful and active trout on those deeper edges and cuts around the flats through the early morning. During the heat of the day, they are moving around the open flats.
You can find them a little deeper on the flats this time of year too hanging around 4-6 feet. We are seeing them around the bridge and dock lights at night as well still too. These guys love those soft slow-moving plastics when choosing artificials. Live bait free-lined shrimp or pinfish are great options,
Do not forget those residential canals this time of year as those dock lines have that dark bay mud that radiates heat well in the afternoon which attracts trout, snook, redfish, sheepshead, and others to the comfort of the dock lines.
Redfish action is steady around the area, but the weather does move them around a bit. We are seeing these fish around the dock lines and bridges in the passes all the way up to the flats, mangrove shorelines and oyster bars of the upper bay, and many places in between.
Residential canal dock lines are a great place to find redfish too! They love those small pinfish, white bait or live shrimp but will also take dead cut bait like pinfish or threadfins.
Snook action is still happening around the docks in the passes but the cooler temperatures this coming week may slow that down a bit as many move back into the bay to retreat from the cooler waters. We see plenty of these fish around those creeks and river mouths this time of year hiding around the docks, bridges, and marinas with the structure for them to ambush passing prey.
These guys are still active on the flats, mangroves shorelines, and cuts during the day too. Remember, all these fish get cold just like me and you. They can’t bundle up so when it gets cold, they move more slowly and feed more lazily so remember to slow those lures down this time of year as they will not chase baits around like the warmer weather months.
Whiting and silver trout are being caught around local passes and along our beaches. It's a great time to drift a sandy pass working those tandem rigs for silver trout and whiting or have a live shrimp out on or near the bottom. You may even find a redfish during the day with the shrimp.
The surf areas of the beach will hold whiting and those guys will take shrimp and those pompano jigs too! Local beach fishing piers like For De Soto piers, Anna Maria Pier, or the Clearwater Pier 60 are great places to catch plenty of whiting.
Flounder action is going well around those sandy areas adjacent to the structures of the area or even around the flats. If there is a place for the flounder to hide next to an area that will hold bait, the flounder will stage on the down tide sides on the bottom to take baits that get pushed off the structure
Bouncing an artificial shrimp like a DOA along the bottom of these areas are great ways to produce flounder. Also, this time of year a popular way to target them is gigging for them at night.
Black drum are active around the local bridges, dock lines and piers. These guys will eat crabs, shrimp, and sometimes even white bait but they mostly prefer crustaceans. They will be on the bottom right around the structures and the smaller ones are great eating fish. However, they do get large and they are not bad either.
Near shore and offshore
Hogfish action is going extremely well around our near shore rock piles and ledges and even that flat hard bottom around those structures.
These guys are most active around 40-60 feet, but you can catch them well as shallow as 30 feet and as deep as around 80 feet. We catch them much deeper up to 140 feet but it's most common near shore. Since they are so incredibly leader shy and slow to bite it's extremely hard to really target them offshore in deeper water with so many other more aggressive fish around competing for the bait.
Plus, using their favorite live shrimp out there offshore is extremely hard since they can be picked off the hook so easily. While near shore in shallower waters it’s much easier to feel that live shrimp and avoid it getting stolen without you having a chance to feel the bite and get that hook up. We see the best success on hogfish using around 20-30lb floro and about a 3-4ot hook. They will love a fiddler crab, sand flea or even a rock shrimp too, but the common live shrimp is the most preferred bait as it gives you plenty of chances at not only hogfish but plenty of great eating by catch too.
Lane snapper and mangrove snapper are continually active near shore up to around 100 feet of water if you start to look for them around 50-60 feet. We are seeing some incredibly large lane snapper and seemingly more and more of them even as shallow as 40 feet of water. However, their hot spot seems to be closer to around 70 feet. These lanes are great eating and will take squid, shrimp, or even cut threadfins.
The mangroves are a bit pickier and they will be an option much deeper while the lanes seem to stop around that 100-120 feet area. Mangrove snapper bite well out into the deep up to around 250 feet. Mangrove snapper love those cut threadfins on the double snell rig out deep or live pinfish that are a little smaller.
While near shore we commonly target them using that hogfish set up with live shrimp and a single hook to give us chances at those hogfish and lanes too. However, the mangrove snapper are much more aggressive than hogfish and we are seeing some nice sized fish mixed in near shore.
Red grouper action has really been going well offshore. Near shore the red grouper action is a little more tricky but we're catching some nice ones. The best action seems to be around 80-140 feet of water on the deepest end of our near shore waters and shallower end of the offshore waters.
We’re seeing some fat ones up to around 180 feet too but this coming month starts that 20-fathom closure so we will be targeting those red grouper through February and March around this 80-120ft depth. Beyond 120 feet or 20 fathoms you will not be able to harvest any of the shallow water grouper complex so essentially all grouper are closed beyond that line except the deep water species like yellow edge and snowies we get out there past 400-500 feet of water deep drop fishing.
Red grouper love those long squid strips around 6-12 inches and they love live pinfish and even some nice cut bait. I like dead bait fishing for them this time of year to try and avoid the heartache of catching a big gag that is closed this time of year. We have seen some really nice gag grouper lately we have had to catch and release and it’s always a heart breaker but fun to land!
Scamp grouper action has been going extremely well for us in January. However, now with the deepwater closure starting that 140-180 feet depth we have been targeting and seeing that bigger scamp becomes impossible to target for them since they are closed to protect their spawn in that area.
However, you still have a shot from them and decent chance inside the open area but it’s just hard to see those six-plus pound fish in shallower but some great eating 16-20 inch scamp are a welcome sight and much more possible inside 120 feet.
Blackfin tuna action has been going well out there offshore and we're looking forward to seeing them for the next month or two like this too. They should push in a little shallower for us too as that water temp continues to stay cool. You can find 'em flat line fishing while anchored up bottom fishing or while trolling from spot to spot. Often, many are caught by chance while dropping down or retrieving baits from the bottom targeting grouper and snapper.