Fishing Report: Jan. 8, 2020

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. 8, 2020.


Sheepshead bite stays as the most active action again this week for inshore anglers around the area. These guys are very prolific around virtually any structure that will have the barnacles, oysters, and then crabs they like to feed on.

Docks, piers, bridges, jetties, oyster bars, and even rock piles of the bay are holding good numbers of sheepshead right now.

Behind the cold fronts, when waters get murky, they even seem to bite better unlike many other inshore species. It's a great time of year to get out there and target them on light tackle and small pieces of cut oysters, clams, or even fresh shrimp. However, the consistent best option for them are those small mud crabs or fiddler crabs.

They can be tricky to get hooked as you need a small hook, but they have an extremely hard mouth, so you must really set that hook for them. J-hooks are a must for sure when targeting sheeps around structures.

Also, if fishing something accessible, bring a scraper along and scrape the barnacles and growth off the pilings around where you are fishing that will create a chum slick that will bring more sheepshead to the area. You are dropping your baits. 

Trout action has been a little hit and miss due to weather, but over all very steady through the area. The passes seem to carry big numbers of speckled and silver trout this time of year but this past week many anglers will have a great night of them and then the next it will be tougher.

During the day, many catch them around the potholes or edges of the flats or around those cuts and mangrove islands. The flats seem to have a better more consistent bite this week for speckled trout.

Silver trout are more around the passes and on the beaches and around the piers, while speckled trout are mostly from the passes to the back bay and around the flats, docks, mangrove shorelines and holes adjacent to places holding bait like the ones we listed.

Soft plastics moving slowly with a slow steady retrieve with occasional brief pauses every 3-5 cranks seem to be working best. However, live shrimp or white bait also great ideas for the trout action through the area. Keep in mind though, that the speckled trout are still catch-and-release only so please handle with care and get them back quickly as they are ready to spawn this time of year. 

Whiting action has picked up around the piers, jetties and along the beaches. These guys will take shrimp, soft plastics, pompano jigs and even sometimes squid out just past the surf and around the sandy gullies that run parallel to the beaches.

Our beaches piers are reporting good numbers caught recently during the day. 

Mackerel action, still even with the temperatures, seems to be going well. We are still seeing these guys just along the beaches, around the passes, and local fishing piers, plus the deeper edges of flats around the mouth of the bay.

Normally by this time of year, many have left the area but for some reason this year many have stayed, and some think it could be that pocket of red tide to our south keeping these guys in our area and stopping their normal southern migration or at least slowing it down. 

Pompano are around -- nothing super steady yet, but I feel that has a lot to do with the murky waters we have had due to weather. These guys love to cruise the beaches and you can catch them in the sandy areas of passes too. However, right now, many are seeing them around the bridges around the fort de Soto area.

From around Pass-a-Grille to the Dick Misener Bridge seems to be the best area to target those pompano especially if you can find pockets of cleaner waters. 

Redfish action has been a little picky this week around the passes, but back in the bay, many more of these fish have been caught lately. They are shallower around the flats right now in less than 3 feet of water most of the time.

Cut bait still a great option for the big girls, but soft plastics have yielded plenty of active action too. They will take live shrimp, white bait, and even smaller pinfish too. 

Snook have mostly moved back into the bay and even started up some of the local rivers, creeks, and bayous. Dock areas around the mouths of these local spots are great places to target this time of year as the snook will hangout around the docks and that dark bay mud that radiates the heat they are so craving.

The local passes are really seeing dwindling numbers of snook but sometimes you can get lucky to find a few, especially with dead cut bait on the bottom as they get lazy this time of year in the colder waters and become even more opportunistic feeders trying to expel the least amount of energy possible in the cooler temps. 

Near shore and offshore

Hogfish actions is absolutely incredible this past week during that little weather window we talked about last week.

From Monday to Thursday, we got out there near shore and the hogfish were not playing around. Tuesday’s 10-hour had over 60 hogfish landed, and Thursday’s 10-hour had over 50 but around a third to half of those fell short of the fourteen-inch fork length minimum size -- but still killer numbers of active fish out there right now.

It's so important for people to remember their minimum size is fork length meaning from the start of their jaw to the MIDDLE of their tail without the tail pinched. Those long whisps off the back of the tail do not count towards their minimum size limit and many we see around the near shore waters are around 12-13 inches which bodes well for the next few years of hogfish action.

However, we must be so careful to ensure they get off the hook quickly, handled properly and put back into the water quickly. These guys are super susceptible to that barotrauma more so than most any other species even in super shallow depths so make sure to get them up quickly and off the hook in an extremely fast manner. If they don’t measure, get them back as soon as you can for every second they spend at the surface their chances of survival exponentially dwindle.

These guys love live shrimp on that ‘smokey-style’ knocker rig with around a 1oz lead and 4-6 red beads and a 3-4ot hook with an exceedingly long 20-30lb floro top shot on top of 20-30lb braided line in your 4000 series spinning reel. Nekid ball jigs, other ball jigs, and even jig heads are other popular styles to target hogfish but lately, that special knocker rig our first mate came up with seems to have the most success.

We feel especially in murky waters that rig emits that sound of the beads knocking together that attract those hogfish to your rigs. Or at least that is what we have all settled on as the reason in our dock arguments.

Look for hogfish around 30-80 feet of water this time of year on smaller ledges, rock piles, or even the edges of the Egmont Channel out around the end of the channel. 

Red grouper action is going pretty well for us again this past week from around 60-110 feet of water, but we have seen some as shallow as 40-50 feet when fishing for hogfish too.

Offshore, we see these guys biting well for us from around 140 feet up to around 200 feet of water. These guys love the bigger pieces of dead bait like strips of squid wings, bonita and even chunks of mullet or mackerel work.

One of my favorite ways to target them is butterflied up sand perch or lizard fish. However, red grouper will love a live pinfish or pigfish too, but we still have those gags around that will take those too and unfortunately since gags are closed you have to release those guys but using dead bait can help you to mitigate that heartbreak. 

Lane snapper action is hot lately from around 50-60 feet of water up to around 110-120 feet of water. These guys are loving live shrimp, cut squid or chunks of cut threadfin. They often will take that double snell rig or the hogfish knocker rig while targeting the mangroves or hogfish out around these depths. These snapper seem to only be getting larger and more prolific through our local waters. 

Mangrove snapper action is surprisingly good right now despite the cooler temperatures nearshore from around 40 feet where we start to see a few up to around 200 feet offshore where the big boys are more prolific.

Mangrove snapper love those threadfin chunks on double snell rigs especially when fishing deeper for them offshore. Near shore, I still use the same approach just with lighter leaders, but the live shrimp becomes the better option for them as you get inside 80 feet of water. Near shore, around 20-30lb floro with 3-4ot hooks and once past around 60-80 feet more like 30-50lb leaders with around 5-6ot hooks are common.  

Yellowtail snapper are getting more and more common out deep offshore this time of year. Once past around 120-140 feet of water we see these guys most often. They love the small squid strips around 2-3 inches about a ½ wide, but they will take shrimp or even threadfin chunks too. 

Scamp grouper are a great option to target this time of year if you can get deep offshore past around 120-140 feet of water that is where we get the big boys that push 30 inches plus.

We caught one scamp last weekend over 12 pounds on our long-range trips. You can find scamp grouper near shore but finding them over the 16-inch minimum size limit can be more challenging inside 120 feet of water.

For truly trophy-sized scamp the deeper you go the better we find them all the way to around 400 feet of water, but we like to stay around 160-200 feet this time of year to get those fat red grouper and those scamp too in January before that deep-water closure for the shallow water grouper complex starts in February and March. 

Blackfin tuna action is picking up offshore beyond 100-120 feet of water. This is the time of year we see a lot of these guys especially around the new and full moon and most frequently the few hours before sunrise or just after night fall.

During the day, you can pick them up, but we do not see the crazy flurries like we do just before sunrise. Daytime, you can troll for them using those rapala xrap magnums or those nomad DTX trolling plugs too!