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. 22 2021.
Trout action has been great this past week throughout the area. We are seeing some nice ones around local dock lines, piers, bridges, and jetties. However, around the flats the bite is best especially those little pockets or cuts adjacent to the flats. Also, the mangrove islands and shorelines are holding active trout too.
A good idea for inshore fishing for most any species but especially this time of year for trout is to look for the three P’s of inshore fishing. Those are points, pockets, and passes. These areas are staging areas and most of the fish will be in those areas when looking for a spot to target actively feeding fish.
As always, the trout love some live shrimp or greenbacks free lined on light tackle or those slower moving soft plastics worked slowly are a great idea.
Remember, when the water is cold the fish are cold, and they move more slowly so you must slow your retrieve and match what they naturally see in that cooler water temperature.
Sheepshead action has continued to be impressive around the area as well. We are seeing a lot of these guys around local bridges, piers, docks, seawalls and even the reefs and rock piles of the bay. It is one of the greatest times of year to target these guys and they will even cooperate on those bad weather days when other fish might not want to chew.
The sheepshead congregate around virtually any structure that will have those barnacles, oysters, clams, and other growth. They work those areas looking for shrimp, crabs and other crustaceans and will even eat the barnacles along their way.
Small pieces of cut shrimp, clams, and oysters are great options. However, the hot bait for sheepshead are those fiddler crabs or small mud crabs you can find before heading out to target sheeps.
Redfish action is going well right now from the passes and even sometimes on the beaches to the back bay creeks. We are seeing a lot of these fish actively feeding around the flats and mangrove shorelines. However, working residential dock lines this time of year where water is moving is a great idea too. Plus, we are seeing quite a few stacked up around the structures of the local passes too.
I have personally seen countless redfish pulled off the docks of Johns Pass this past week using live shrimp or small pinfish on the bottom around the docks.
Snook action is impressive this past week compared to what we normally see around the passes when waters get this cold. We are seeing quite a few fish staging up in the pass perhaps because were getting a bit of a warmer break. However, we have seen some really nice fish around the docks of the pass in the lights at night and during the day biting well along the bottom mixed in with the redfish on towards the bottom.
However, the redfish are still much more active and prolific out towards the passes this time of year but its good to see a pulse of snook back out in the pass areas.
We are seeing most of the snook feeding very well around that dark bottom at the mouths of creeks, rivers, and along those residential canal dock lines. These guys are especially affected by cooler water temps and they will be very slow moving so lures must be worked extra slow and live bait must be presented naturally right in their strike zone as they will try and expend as little energy as possible when feeding in cooler waters this time of year.
Pompano typically start to show up much heavier as the water begins to warm a little, but we are seeing an early push of a few decent pompano numbers. Especially on the south side of Tampa Bay and the south end of the north side.
The Anna Maria and Cortez area has seen some decent starts to our spring push of pompano and some of those fish are making it north to the Fort DeSoto to Dick Misner Bridge areas. They love that sandy bottom working it for shrimp, sand fleas and other small crustaceans.
Using a pompano jig is a great way to target them too but often many will not keep it close enough to bottom as these fish feed strictly on the bottom or only a few inches off the bottom. You must just bounce that jig along the bottom only 4-8 inches off the bottom occasionally doing a few short and slow cranks to reset the jig and retrieve any slack.
Black drum action has been fairly steady around the beaches, bridges, and dock lines of our local area. These guys love live shrimp or crabs and often times you will pick them up while targeting sheepshead around the structures especially when using a larger piece of shrimp or crab.
We are also seeing them around those residential dock lines mixed in with redfish, snook, trout and sheepshead.
Flounder action is a bit hit and miss as of late but were seeing a few around local docks, sea walls and bridges ambushing passing baits from their sand bottom hide outs. These guys are great eating and fun to catch but they are tricky to target in good numbers unless you find their hotspot. We will also see them in those sandy patches along or adjacent to the local grass flats.
Mangrove snapper are still being caught around local bridges, docks, mangrove shorelines and seawalls but they are definitely in lower numbers compared to the warmer months and were catching most of the good sized ones out deeper near shore. However, you can find them along those structures still eating smaller slow moving soft plastics and those pieces of shrimp or oysters you are trying to target sheepshead with.
Triple tail action is picking up around the north end of Tampa Bay around the markers and floating debris. They love that free lined live shrimp but using ultra-light weight like a small split shot to weight the shrimp down the marker line or piling will work well too when trying to get one of these unique and incredibly good eating fish.
Mackerel are also still around. The numbers are low, and sizes are normally fairly small but were still seeing quite a surprising amount for this time of year around the mouth of the bay and either side at the mouth too. Plus, local passes and bridges and deeper edges of the flats are still holding a few mackerel as well.
NEAR-SHORE & OFFSHORE
Hogfish are dominating the near-shore fishery right now and is our main target recently on most of our near shore trips. This past Tuesday’s 10-hour all day brought in over 40 keeper-sized hogfish for some incredibly happy anglers and our other trips are still catching plenty too.
Fishing around 30-70 ft of water is best for these hogfish and around that 40-60 ft area seems best. They love those live shrimp on light tackle but you can get them with fiddler crabs, sand fleas and even rock shrimp. However, most opt to use the live shrimp as the most common bait, and it allows you a better chance for those active mangrove and lane snapper we are seeing as well.
We prefer around a 20-30lb floro leader with around a 3-4ot hook. The knocker rig with the 4-6 read beads and around a 1oz egg sinker continues to be a great producing set up, but many love those nekid ball jigs too for catching plenty of hogfish.
The mangrove snapper and lane snapper are highly active around those deeper hogfish depths up to around 110-120ft of water. We are seeing good numbers of lane snapper in quite a large size recently and were seeing some nice numbers of mangrove snapper too mixed in.
The mangroves get bigger and a bit more prolific past the near shore waters to the offshore waters up to around 200ft but were surprised at the current mangrove action and size near shore too. These near shore aggressive snapper will take a scaled down version of those offshore double snell snapper set ups, but they really love the lighter leaders and the live shrimp.
Offshore, the mangrove snapper prefer that double snell rig and using live shrimp past 100-120ft gets tricky as there’s so many more aggressive fish that will take that shrimp quickly and often without you able to feel it in a hurry.
Deeper waters mangrove snapper fishing we prefer that 40-50lb leader and double snelled 5-6ot hooks with a chunk of cut threadfin or sardine for the mangrove snapper, vermillion snapper, and porgies. Plus, often you will still get a shot at a red grouper or scamp grouper too while targeting the mangrove snapper on this set up.
When gags are open, we scale up our mangrove snapper rigs to ensure we have a shot to land a gag that may bite when mangrove fishing but since gags are closed, we often scale down to as light as 30lb leaders if the bite is tougher to keep those mangrove chewing while not worrying as much about breaking off the occasional gag grouper bite. However, starting with that 40lb leader is best and if the bite is good, I might even go 50lb just to ensure I do not miss a bigger fish, and if its slow quickly cutting down to 30lb is a great option.
Red grouper action is going well for us around 120-180ft of water and we are seeing some nice scamp grouper mixed in closer to that 180-200ft mark as well. This is a great time to capitalize on those deepwater bites for fat red grouper before their spawning deep-water closure begins February 1. This only closes deep water beyond 20 fathoms or 120ft and you can see those closure GPS coordinates on the council’s website.
We will often still catch those nice red grouper right inside that closure line or just near it during February and March but the ability to catch those big deep-water scamp grouper definitely dwindles.
This deep-water closure is for the entire shallow water grouper complex so once you have a grouper on board you cannot cross the closure line. However, you can fish beyond it and target other species, but you cannot keep a grouper beyond the line, but if you come inside you can then catch and keep any grouper you happen to land besides the closed gag grouper.
Blackfin tuna are the most active pelagic fish around our offshore waters this time of year. It is a great idea to have the flat line out and to troll around for them with the diving plugs when moving between or looking for spots.
We sometimes see the occasional kingfish and the wahoo are not out of the question either this time of year. However, 9 out of 10 times when catch pelagics this time of year it will likely be a blackfin tuna.