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 January 3, 2020.
Sheepshead are spawning this time of year and due to this, we are finding sheepshead throughout the area biting very well.
In the bay, around the rock piles and bridges, you can find big numbers of sheepshead. They’ve been spotted in the passes around the bridges, docks and jetties. Plus, in the residential canals, plenty of sheepies can be found around the docks and seawalls.
These guys don’t mind the muddier cool water that comes behind a cold front, but they will feed in clearer waters too. Yesterday, we had a team working to clean the bottom of our boats by scraping barnacles. You could literally hand feed the aggressive sheepshead while cleaning the boats. This is how thick they are when you chum them up by scraping off barnacles from the pilings you are fishing around.
Fiddler crabs, small pieces of shrimp, cut clams or oysters, and even artificial crab baits are working to catch plenty of sheepshead around the area.
Trout bite continues to be impressive through the area -- day or night. During the day, the grass flat edges, residential docks in wind-protected areas, or mangrove shorelines are great areas to target trout with live shrimp, soft plastics, or white bait.
At night, we are seeing them in the dock lights and bridge lights where the live bait schools are active, and they will take the same bait that works well during the day for the speckled trout. Silver trout are mainly at night in the passes and during the day on the beaches, jetties or gulf beaches piers.
Snook bit very well through the start of this week with the warmer weather. They really got frisky and moved around while feeding. You must target them on the right tides, but if you’re able to get on them, it’s a great time to go catch-and-release some snook.
I love to utilize the Smart Fishing Tides website by Salt Strong to find out when the fishing will be best according to the tides, solunars and other weather variables for the area. This past week, the passes produced snook at night along with the residential dock lights. During the day, the residential docks protected from the wind worked well if you were fishing close to the shoreline along with plenty of snook along the flats and mangrove shorelines.
Redfish cooperated pretty well again this week, but not quite as active as the snook. We saw redfish caught along the shallower 2 to 4-foot grass flats, oyster bars, and mangrove areas. These guys were loving small pinfish, live shrimp or white bait when using live options.
Artificials that worked well were the white paddle tail, which seems to be the latest and greatest option in our area along with the mirror lures and Z-Man mullet.
Mackerel are getting more prolific in the area and they are biting best when water is clean around the local piers, passes, jetties and mouth of the bay. These guys love live white bait or fast-moving flashy lures like the gotcha plugs, casting spoons or the yo-zuri crystal minnow.
They prefer moving water with lots of live bait around for them to feed aggressively. These guys require a faster moving action on your artificial lure to get them to chew.
Pompano action is good around the Fort De Soto area, Skyway approaches and Pass-A-Grille when the water is cleared up and cleaner. We are seeing these guys mostly on the pompano jigs, but you can catch them using live sand fleas for bait too. Lighter tackle is key as they are very picky eaters.
Tarpon starting to show up in the area, and they will only get more prolific as that water temperature gets right. Typically, around May is when the tarpon-run really kicks into high gear and they start to really feed more in larger groups at the mouth of Tampa Bay around the Skyway to Egmont key and other local passes in smaller numbers.
Hogfish bite has continued to impress this past week. However, it was a little tougher to get larger numbers this past week just due to the weather and small window to target them.
We definitely had to work a little harder to get them to cooperate for us, but we’re hoping with the beautiful weather coming up this week the hogfish will bite much better for us.
Lane snapper and some mangrove snapper bit pretty well around the 60-100 foot areas on the live shrimp, cut squid and also the mud minnows. My favorite method for snapper near shore and offshore is the double snell rig with a chunk of threadfin, sardine or cigar minnow on the hooks either rigged knocker rig style or on a fish finder set up.
Snapper are quick-biting fish so lighter, more sensitive tackle is important -- similar to what you want for hogfish. However, they feed more aggressively so when the bite is going well I like to use conventional set ups so I can get down to the bottom quickly and get back up to the boat quickly to catch more of these fish during the hot bite.
Then if the bite slows down, that’s when I will break out the spinning rod, I would use for hogfish to target these snapper with a knocker rig or jig head set up and lighter tackle.
Red grouper bite has been tougher lately near shore, but the deeper you go the better your chances right now for a few keeper red grouper while your fishing in near shore waters inside 20 miles from shore. Live pinfish, squid strips, or whole threadfins are a great option for red grouper. My favorite bait though is a lizardfish or squirrel fish butterflied on 60lb leader and 7ot hook.
Mackerel are really getting thick near shore especially where the water isn’t so murky between fronts. We are seeing big numbers of these guys from just off the beaches all the way throughout the shallower near shore waters.
Trolling spoons or plugs around 20 to 60 feet of water will get you plenty of mackerel around any structures that hold bait especially the artificial reefs.
Kingfish are starting to show up with the mackerel but it’s still very early and there isn’t huge numbers of these guys yet. Plus, most that are being seen are much smaller schoolie-sized fish. However, there has been one or two larger kingfish caught already near shore in our area but most of the larger fish are still offshore.
Sheepshead, flounder and redfish are all spawning this time of year so you can occasionally run into huge numbers of these inshore fish offshore.
Redfish are easiest to spot since often their large schools will be cruising up on top of the water. While sheepshead and flounder travel in large groups too they hug the bottom around the near shore artificial reefs and large relief areas like bit rock piles or ledges.
Sheepshead will be right on or just above the structure while flounder will hang off to the side in the sandy area waiting to ambush prey items moving to and from the structure.
Triggerfish opened up March 1 and we’re excited to have a weather window coming up this week starting Tuesday, March 10 to go get some of these great eating fish out in deeper waters offshore.
They are most common past around 150 foot of water but around 200 feet is where you see big numbers of monster triggerfish on those ledges, potholes and hard bottom areas. These guys like hard-bottom structures specifically and they love a chunk of squid on a smaller hook.
Mangrove snapper action is good offshore right now and will only get better in the coming weeks. We’re looking forward to getting back out there this coming week to get a pile of these guys around 120-180 foot of water.
Red grouper are tougher right now due to the deep water closure, but were able to find a few right inside the closure line. When fishing outside of it though, any grouper species including scamp and strawberries must be released. Whenever releasing a fish out deep make sure to use a venting tool properly or an easy to use descender device.
Make sure to never release a fish offshore and let it float away. We always ensure to vent or descend fish if they need it to avoid them floating off to die. Typically, when we get started on a spot, the first fish we release will let us know if we need to vent or descend at that fishing spot.
If the first fish caught and released swims down quickly and healthy, no need to vent or descend fish at that fishing spot. However, if the first fish released floats off and can’t get to bottom, we will net him up and vent or descend it and every subsequent fish after. If you don’t know how to use a venting tool or descender device, you should not be offshore fishing.
However, its easy to learn. Check out this helpful link and click what state you want more info about. There are tons of helpful videos and information on how to vent or descend fish to ensure your released fish will survive another day for you to catch in the future when they are larger or their season is open. Click here.
Kingfish are biting well out there in the deeper waters. They are around most of the year out deep where the water temperatures stay in the right range most of the year. Right now, we have seen a big uptick in their numbers however. We’re looking forward to our 39-hour trip on March 10 because we should see big numbers of these guys on the flat lines and knocker rig set ups through the nighttime period.
During the day, some more action will be around, but it will be on flat lines and trollers primarily during the day. I love trolling a Rapala Xrap Magnum 30 or 40 for kingfish offshore.
Tuna are biting well out deep as well with the kingfish. They are right before sunrise or around sunset on flat lines or vertical jigs. Unlike kingfish, we don’t use a wire stinger rig for tuna most of the time were flat lining with fluorocarbon and a tail hooked pinfish for these tuna.
The tough part is that if the kings are around, they are liable to bite too and cut your flat line tackle so light wire can be a good idea. It will still give you a shot at tuna but also enable you to land a kingfish if he bites your flat line.
Plus, sailfish occasionally grace our area this time of year and they, like tuna, prefer a flat line without wire, but we have caught a few on a kingfish stinger rig over the years.
However, it’s important to have a pitch rod rigged and ready if you happen to spot one of these guys cruise past your boat while your bottom fishing this spring.