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 June 19, 2020.
Snook fishing has been great around the area, they are the most active inshore species right now. From upper Tampa Bay to our beaches, and everywhere in between from mangrove shorelines, to grass flats, to the passes and on the beaches -- snook are feeding well on a variety of baits.
Live bait, dead cut bait and artificials are all doing well to get you some snook action. At night, the best places seem to be around the passes or dock lights. During the day, the beaches are holding plenty of fish but the flats and mangrove shorelines in a little deeper water have been producing plenty of fish.
Mangrove snapper fishing has been really good throughout the area on the bridges, docks, piers, and jetties. Essentially, if it holds bait, it will hold plenty of hungry mangrove snapper. They must be ten inches to keep and you're only allowed 5 per angler inside state waters. Light tackle is key and targeting them when the water is moving a bit slower helps you to feel their quick bites and be more successful for sure.
Trout fishing is going well around the deeper grass flats especially in sandy patches or on the edges, but deep cuts and holes adjacent to shallower flats are holding trout as well. The passes at night have attracted plenty of trout too! Great time to go get some summertime trout action if you got some light tackle and live shrimp or white bait. However, artificial soft plastics have been producing well too.
Redfish action was a little spotty this week as big schools of fish were harder to find, but there were a few smaller schools still spotted in upper Tampa Bay. Around 3-6ft of water around the oyster bars, mangrove shorelines and grass flats, you may be able to get some redfish action. Cut bait is a great idea as summertime temperatures continue to warm the water and make those redfish a bit more lethargic.
Mackerel are spreading out and are not so crazy prolific around the area, but the fishing piers like big Pier 60, Fort De Soto piers, Anna Maria piers and especially the Skyway Fishing Piers all still producing some nice mackerel. You can find spotty pockets of them along the beaches too. Look for the bait action and the mackerel will be there at the edges working the bait to the surface.
Flounder have been a bit spotty overall this week, but some nice ones caught around the back bay waters on those sandy potholes or edges of the grass flats. They love small pinfish or live shrimp right on or just above the bottom. They will always be partial to sandy bottom adjacent to areas that are holding some prey items.
Tarpon fishing has been a little tough this week as many fish are heading near shore to spawn. However, the east wind days have really brought the fish to the coastline and have produced the best chances for catching cooperative Tarpon. Live pass crabs or blue crabs are the premium baits currently with around 40-50lb floro leader.
Triple tail have been around the markers of the bay from the mouth of the bay up into upper Tampa Bay. These guys love live shrimp on light tackle casted right around the bases of the markers. They can also be found on the occasional floating debris you run across in the Bay Area.
We are seeing a great bite of snapper species from around 60-100ft of water from lanes to vermillions and even a few mangrove snapper mixed in.
Our 10 -hour party boat fishing trip has been landing huge numbers of these great-eating snapper, mostly on cut squid and light tackle in the 30lb range with 4ot hooks. However, if you fish the cut threadfin plug with double snells, you can still catch these other snapper but your chance for a mangrove snapper will go up exponentially. We have been seeing a decent amount of nice mangrove snapper in this depth too. They are just much more leader-shy and finicky to get chewing well.
Lighter tackle works well, but you're sacrificing the chance at landing anything bigger if you get lucky and hook into a grouper or larger fish. The knocker rig or jig head fishing on the spinning reels is super popular in the warm summer months especially on those flat calm super warm summer days when the fish seem to get lockjaw around mid-day.
This method with some live shrimp is also a great way to get plenty of snapper and have tons of fun doing it with 20-30lb test and minimal weight in the ½-1oz range depending on current.
The red grouper action was a little tougher this past week. That moon phase and the high pressure, I feel, had a lot to do with the change in red grouper patterns but we have been seeing quite a few on our smaller boat private charters. With less lines in the water, we are able to utilize those smaller fishing spots and pot holes. That seemed to really help us dial in on some nice red grouper. Plus, a chance at some gag grouper but the near shore gags are very aggressive and you got to get on top of these fish and start cranking as hard and fast as you possibly can as soon as you feel the bite and don’t stop till he hits the deck.
Unfortunately, that is not so easy for first-time anglers to grasp on charter fishing trips, so we watch a lot of these aggressive grouper get broke off. The best thing you can do is to use around 60-80lb test near shore and around a 7ot hook and a big live bait or large cut dead bait and fish those smaller spots and be ready to pull the trigger and get more aggressive than the fish as quickly as possible. As the water cools, we will see more and more prolific grouper action.
The near shore pelagics are pretty few and far between. Right now, the main pelagic action we are seeing are those schools of chicken dolphin or schoolie-sized mahi mahi that range in size from 14-30 inches. These guys will come up at any time and if you are ready for them you can pull up quite a few.
If you are not ready you will simply watch them swim by. Do not forget your pitch rod with 20-30lb leader and 4ot hook and be ready to throw a chunk of threadfin or live shrimp out to them. I love using the 7/8th oz gotcha plugs for the passing mahi, you can sometimes even get em two at a time!
The offshore bite this past week has been a little picky during the day with the best action either early in the day or late in the day. Both the nighttime and daytime periods on both recent 39-hour trips have been steady but picky with no really crazy fish-catching periods outside the first light and last light time frames.
Luckily, the 12-hour extreme trips have been a little bit more steady with big piles of fish coming up all through the daytime for the most part. At the start of the week, they were having the same issue of great fishing at the first part of the day. Then once mid-day, hitting the bite would get more difficult. This is somewhat common during the warm summer months and we call it the mid-day doldrums.
This is why we have those lighter tackle set ups when the fish want to shut down during the heat of the day when we don’t have anchor headings or current to hold the boat effectively over the fish.
Gag grouper fishing has been decent for the time of year. Normally, during the warm summer when gags first open, they can be tricky, but we have had great luck getting some nice fish out deep past 140-160 up to around 150ft of water. You get more and more chances at big gags once you get past 100-120ft of water but, until you reach that cooler deep water, you will not see the big boys stacked up on spots. As the water cools this late fall, those fish will slowly work their way closer to shore making it even easier to find big gag grouper!
Red snapper are biting extremely well around 150-250ft of water. We are seeing a decent bite of quality fish from 120-150ft too. However, for big consistent red snapper, you must go deeper and further from shore for sure.
The private recreational red snapper season is open now along the west coast of Florida for private recreational anglers on private boats (no consideration given for the trip) from June 11 until July 25. Plus, red snapper has been open on the federally-permitted for hire charter boats and party boats across the Gulf of Mexico.
This season is June 1 until end-of-the-day August 1. For both seasons, the limits are the same with a 16-inch minimum size limit and only two fish per person. You must know how to take care of these fish offshore.
So often we find that people will try and high-grade their two-fish limit and this is really the worst conservation tactic because so often fish caught offshore have a low chance of survival. I would recommend not high grading, but so many will not even begin to listen to this advice so in the least everyone must use a descending device or a venting tool when fishing beyond 70-90ft of water.
If you do not know what these devices are or how to use them then you really should not be offshore fishing until you get familiar. Here’s some great information on how to learn to be a better angler offshore and preserve your undersize or out of season and other regulatory discards.
That link will show you all about how to vent a fish or how to descend a fish. Descending is super easy for anyone. If you're not super familiar with the biology of the fish and you are not comfortable poking a sharp object into a fish’s stomach cavity, where all his important organs are housed, then descending devices are your best bet.
If you are a very experienced angler or if you have a good guide or mate who is got the experience to show you firsthand, then venting may be a better option. Here is the page we designed with the help of our friends at Salt Strong to talk about how to vent fish. We prefer this method on our boats due to high catch rates and more anglers fishing, but we are actively teaching and supervising this method to ensure its utilized properly which is why it works so well for us.
The biggest question in regards to venting or descending comes in the form of ‘When do you have to do this?’ Well, unfortunately, there is no clear answer. In the summer, when water is hot, there is less dissolved oxygen in the water, this means barotrauma occurs in even shallower water (as shallow as 70-80ft). While during the cooler months the water is more oxygenated and then you do not see barotrauma and thus do not need to vent or descend until your deeper (around 90-110ft).
Also, the longer the fish takes to get the surface plays a role in the barotrauma effect and every second that fish is on the surface exponentially increase these effects and lowers its survival rate.
Our general rule of thumb is on the first fish of the day, get it up fast, de-hook it quickly (use a dehooker like this one) and then toss it back next to the boat. If it floats and will not return to the bottom, that means every subsequent fish will need to be vented or descending the remainder of your day in that depth of water.
If we all work together, we can greatly affect our fishery for the positive. Nothing makes me more angry and frustrated when we see people babying snook and trout inshore then they go offshore to have a 2-mile long train of floating dead undersized or out-of-season fish behind their boat because they don’t bother to take care of their discarded fish and prevent barotrauma by either venting or descending.