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 March 13, 2020.
Spring is in the air and that means that the water is warming, and fish are moving.
This is a great time of year to get out there and go fishing. Bait will get more and more prolific and predators will be easier to find and catch. The catch-and-release rule again is still in effect for trout, redfish, and snook in our area until the end of May 2021 but that doesn’t mean they aren’t biting well.
If you are looking for something to take home and eat right now, the best thing to target would be sheepshead. Sheepshead are still very thick around the area right now. Their spawn continues and we’re seeing big numbers of these guys around the area bridges, docks, piers and essentially any structures.
The water has gotten super clear lately and it's making it super easy to spot the sheepshead loaded down around the dock. For example, on our dock yesterday afternoon you could see big schools of sheepshead circling the pilings up and down the dock looking for crabs, shrimp, oysters or anything else they could pick off easily before they all head near shore to spawn. This is a great time of year to capitalize on the great sheepshead action while it lasts.
Trout bite was fired up this past week, and it was really good, especially in the last few days. The grass flats during the day are holding trout on the edges and potholes. At night, we see plenty of trout action on the dock lights and bridge lights. Soft plastics are my favorite option for trout, like the DOA shrimp or paddletail baits on a small jig head. They will love a live shrimp or white bait as well. As the water continues to warm the trout will still feed but their aggression and congregations will both subside a bit.
Snook in the area are slowly spreading out cautiously.
Redfish action was pretty good this past week. Many redfish are still around structures like docks, rock piles and oyster bars around two to four feet of water. However, a few are being caught out on the flats.
These guys love the soft plastic paddletails or gold spoons if you prefer a lure, but if you like the live bait then small pinfish or white bait work well for redfish. The water is getting clearer and this means stealthier tackle is necessary. Around 20lb floro leader is a great idea with 10 to 15-pound mainline.
Triple tail getting thicker in the bay, but more and more will show up. We see lots of them along the near shore waters right now as well, but they are definitely moving up into the bay a bit right now in bigger sizes. These are great-eating, unique-looking fish that love to take free-lined live shrimp pitched out under the structures the triple tail like to hide underneath like markers, buoys, or any floating debris.
Mackerel bite will only get better. There are plenty around right now, but we should see even more showing up in the coming weeks. The Skyway fishing pier, Fort De Soto fishing pier, Anna Maria piers, and Clearwater Beach Pier are all great areas to find tons of mackerel hanging out -- especially in the morning hours before boat traffic kicks up.
Water is clearing up, which makes it a little tricky and easier at the same time. Your shiny mackerel lures are easier to spot from further distances, but you still need to get them to eat. Super-light wire is best, but if the bite is tricky, I like using a longer spoon or gotcha plug with around 20lb floro. If you’re not using wire you may lose some tackle, but you will get more bites and action.
We are seeing some really good near-shore action right now as the water has finally calmed down and is starting to really clear-up and warm-up all at the same time. We see great weather in the future forecasts for a while and this means even more near-shore action should be picking up steam over the next week.
Hogfish are cooperating well still, but they definitely were a little more picky this past week. Around 40-70 feet of water is still the best area to target them but you can still find them as deep as 90 feet of water fairly consistently.
Live shrimp is king, but fiddler crabs, sand fleas, and even rock shrimp work well for hogfish. Lighter tackle becomes even more important as the water continues to clear up. We are using as light as 25lb floro to target hogfish right now. I feel part of the reason they were a little trickier this past week has to do with the water clarity improving so much so quickly.
The good part about the cold fronts stirring up the water is that it would allow for lower water clarity and you could get away with using a little more beefy tackle with success. If you like to go after these guys, now is the time to do it because once we get closer and closer to summertime the bite continues to grow pickier and tougher.
On the flipside, the snapper species like lanes, mangroves, and vermillion really pick up in action near shore as the water warms and clears. They are smart like the hogfish so lighter tackle helps but their aggression is much higher so with the right bait and conditions they will bite even 30-40lb leaders.
For snapper fishing near shore this time of year, I would still utilize around a 3-4ot hook and 30lb floro with around a 1oz lead on a spinning rod with a double-snelled chunk of threadfin, live shrimp or mud minnow on the bottom hook.
If the bite is going super well, I may even use a high-speed conventional with around a 3oz lead, 30-40lb leader on a fish finder rig to allow for more efficiency and speed when catching lots of snapper.
We saw a big uptick in read grouper action this past week on our near shore trips around 60-100 foot of water. Definitely more of the 20-26 inch red grouper were feeding well on strips of squid, threadfins or live pinfish this past week. Nothing monstrous right now in the shallower near shore waters but it’s great to see the red grouper bite pick up like they should be this time of year. As the water warms and the summer approaches, typically we see the red grouper bite continually improving. It would be great to see a big haul this coming few weeks.
Mackerel are getting to be common in the near shore waters especially along the beaches out to around 35 feet of water on the near shore artificial reefs. There are a few kingfish around, but they are all still fairly small near shore. It will be another few weeks before we see the full mackerel and kingfish run if this weather continues to hold out for us.
The weather has finally calmed down and it is a welcoming sight.
We were excited this past week to be able to make it offshore on our 39-hour long range overnight fishing trip to go get some triggerfish, grouper, snapper and more. The bite on our mid-week trip was picky though, especially at night. However, the daytime action was steady, and it really picked up for us just at the bitter end of the day with some good snapper action.
Normally during these trips, we see the best mangrove snapper action over the nighttime period but they actually bit best during the late afternoon on the last day of fishing.
We still have the deep-water grouper closure in effect until end of March so that kept us fishing a little shallower than we would have like to be with triggerfish open. However, it paid off, allowing us to keep the red grouper, scamp grouper and strawberry grouper we saw on this recent 39-hour fishing trip.
There wasn’t much size to the grouper in the 120 foot areas but they were willing to eat for us on the live pinfish, threadfins and the squid strips. I like using pinfish for scamp especially the smaller pins. For red grouper, they will take just about anything. With the strawberry grouper, I typically catch them while fishing for snapper with cut threadfins on a double snell rig.
Triggerfish are open until May 2 and we see the biggest ones out deeper and closer to around 150 feet of water or more. However, we were able to pick a few keepers in shallower waters during this recent trip. They are a welcoming sight during their short season this year. Remember, you’re only allowed one per person with a min size of 15 inches to the fork.
The pelagic action was a little slow on this most recent trip, but it’s on the verge of kicking off in a big way. This time of year, we typically see nice numbers of tuna, kingfish and even the occasional sailfish or wahoo. Spring and fall are the best times for pelagic action in our offshore waters and were on the doorstep of that spring run. Even some cobia will swim by offshore while your bottom-fishing so have those flat lines out and pitch rods ready!