MADIERA 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 April 24, 2020.
We are still closed due to the virus issues, but luckily, we get to re-open for business starting Monday, May 4! We are pumped for the upcoming week as we have beautiful weather ahead a full moon approaching Thursday, May 7. Should be incredible fishing at the beginning of the coming week, especially Tuesday.
Snook action has been great this past week, but especially during the start of the week when weather was a bit more cooperative.
Yesterday’s weather was not so conducive to fishing, but the snook still chewed around the passes. Many local anglers hardcore enough to fish through any conditions love that turbid condition for some nice snook action around sunrise. The big snook seem to be stacking up in the passes and along our beaches already gearing up for their summertime near shore spawning run.
However, there is still plenty of snook back up in the bay areas too. They are active around the flats and docks throughout the area, but the bigger fish seem to be more plentiful around the passes and on the beaches already. Each morning, prior to sunrise, you can see big numbers stacked around the dock lights and bridge lights near the passes. Snook love live white bait, shrimp or soft plastics on the flats and in the shallows. In the passes, live pigfish, big white bait, finger mullet, flairhawk jigs, larger jerk baits like bombers or soft plastics work well.
Redfish action was stellar last week, but this week it seemed to be a bit slower but still steady. The redfish seemed the most active and cooperative around the flats and shallow shorelines. These guys love the white bait, shrimp, smaller pinfish or soft plastics.
Make sure to work the structures, pockets, or potholes where these redfish lie in wait for passing prey items. It is important to ‘think like a fish’ and present your bait as naturally as possible.
If you know redfish are sitting on the edge of an oyster bar and the tide is rushing over the bar, then those fish are hitting prey as it gets washed over the bar. You would not be as likely to catch them pulling your lower up current. You got to cast over the fish, up on the bar and work your lure with the current. So often simply ‘thinking like a fish’ and putting yourself in their position seems so silly but will help you catch exponentially more fish. This approach is helpful when fishing anywhere on a lake, inshore on the flats, or in 300 feet of water offshore too.
Trout action has been steady throughout our bays, passes, and dock lines. These fish love this time of year and are just finishing their spawn actively feeding. Trout action around the passes is definitely best at night around the lights of the bridges and docks.
During the day you can find them best on the flats or around the residential docks or on the beaches even too. Trout love live shrimp, smaller white bait, and soft plastic slower-moving artificials. Often when you find one trout, there is a few more in that same general area still ready to eat.
Flounder action throughout the area has picked up quite a bit. These guys love to hit passing prey right on the bottom or moving very slowly just above the bottom. They camouflage themselves on the sandy bottom areas adjacent to structures, grass flats or passes to eat what ventures too close to their sandy hide outs.
They are particularly good eating fish, but a little tricky to learn how to fillet.
My favorite method for flounder is drifting a shallow sandy pass like blinds pass with an artificial shrimp passing incredibly slowly, just on and off the bottom. Also, working the potholes and edges of the flats will work too to find you some great eating flounder. This same approach can be used around the docks where sandy bottom and bait is present as well. Flounder will also love live shrimp, live mud minnows, super small pinfish, or a variety of soft plastics.
Mackerel action is still heavy around our local passes, beaches and around the flats close to the mouth of Tampa bay and any local pass. Primarily they are feeding in schools on heavy congregations of bait or minnows, but you can sometimes find them in sporadic numbers on the flats or around the passes. Flashy, fast-moving lures are best when targeting these mackerel with a steady quick retrieve. Casting spoons or gotcha plugs are my favorite go-to lures for these fast moving and good fighting fish.
Sheepshead action has slowed dramatically around the area overall, but there’s still some big girls around the mangroves, docks, passes, and even near shore structures as their spawning period comes to its end. The first few weeks of May will likely be the last time to find congregations of these fish around the passes and dock lines of our bay area.
Mangrove snapper start to fill the void left behind by the sheepshead around the local docks, jetties, passes and structures of the bay area. These guys are in big schools around the bridges, docks, jetties and rock pile areas. They swarm like piranha when there’s some chum in the water, but you can get them going too but cutting up white bait or shrimp into small pieces and peppering that around the rocks adjacent to local docks, bridges or jetties. They are tons of fun on light tackle with small number one hooks and often I use the same bait for them that I would use to attract them, being those small pieces of shrimp or white bait.
Tarpon really showed up early to our area this year in good numbers. The west winds last week kind of pushed them off the shore a bit, but we should see them return to our beaches, passes and mouth of Tampa Bay this upcoming week with the hill tides of the coming full moon. Great time to get out super early and hunt these fish along the beaches as they pour out of our passes on the early morning outgoing tides to hunt along the beaches in big groups.
You can also find them around Egmont Key on the north side around that big hole or on the south side where the water chokes on its way into the gulf. These fish love to eat pass crabs, large shad, or big lures and they put on quite the acrobatic show once hooked.
Red grouper action has been pretty good lately in the deepest near shore waters and just inside of that. Around 80-100 feet of water is a great place to look for these hungry grouper.
Flat hard bottom with lots of cracks and crevasses holding lots of bait and crustaceans called ‘swiss cheese’ bottom is my favorite area for the red grouper near shore. Swiss cheese bottom is followed closely by the potholes and small ledges for red grouper hangouts near shore.
These guys can be targeted with 60lb test and around 6-7ot hooks using a long strip of cut squid wing, live pinfish, or big dead thread fins with the tail cut so they don’t spin on the way to the bottom.
Red grouper fishing is even a little better offshore in a little deeper water, but we are seeing some good numbers coming near shore too. Would be a perfect time to target them this coming Monday-Wednesday ahead of that full moon.
Snapper fishing has been good this past week but should be even better at the start of the coming week due to that full moon. Lane snapper are feeding well from around 40 feet of water up to around 100 feet. We are seeing more mangrove snapper a little deeper from around 60 feet up to the deepest near shore waters of 100 feet.
As the water warms, these snappers get more aggressive and more prolific on the rock piles and ledges near shore as they congregate for their summertime spawns. Light tackle and high gear ratio reels with around 4-5ot hooks is best for snapper fishing. I personally like the double snell rig and a chunk of threadfin and 30-40lb leader for these fish with a 3oz egg sinker on a fish finder rig. An exceptionally light and sensitive rod with a good backbone and light tip works well.
I like a slower action tip going into a faster action back bone when picking out my snapper fishing stick. I love my two speed daiwa reels like the saltiga or saltist for near shore and offshore snapper fishing. Many people prefer the spinning reels for near shore snapper fishing but if the bite is on, I always stick to conventional so I can get them up fast and get back down fast to catch more fish. If the bite slows down, I will pick up a spinning reel with even lighter 20-30lb test leader and a light 1oz knocker rig set up for more action and bites.
Hogfish action has slowed a bit in the near shore waters, but they are still cooperative, you just have to work a little harder and be a little more patient. We catch these fish year around out of our central-west Florida area, but they definitely bite best in cooler months with the peak coming March, April each year. We are looking forward to getting back after them upon re-opening this coming week on our 10-hour all day Tuesday.
With great weather and being a few days prior to the full moon, we are expecting a great bite, especially since our fishing spots have had nearly two months rest due to this incredibly brutal closure at the peak of our hogfish catching time.
This past week local anglers were doing well on the hogfish early in the week from around 40-70ft of water on live shrimp and light tackle. Smaller ledges and flat, hard bottom areas adjacent to ledges are great places to look for this crustacean eating wrasse. Many call them ‘hog snapper’ but they are not in the snapper family at all, and they act much less aggressive then snapper and have a very different biology and life history.
They will often be just above the bottom looking down for crustaceans moving along the bottom. So, 20lb or up to 30lb leader and extremely light weight and 3-4ot hook and a live shrimp is the best approach to catch yourself an amazing tasting hogfish!
Pelagic action is going well near shore right now too. We still have kingfish and some blackfin tuna around the area with tons of mackerel, but the big news this past week was the uptick in the number of cobia cruising around up top.
Never forget the flat line and pitch rod when heading out near shore or offshore fishing this time of year.
We are extremely excited for this upcoming week for our first 39-hr right before a full moon leaving Tuesday, May 5 and our Friday, May 8, 44-hour full moon trip. It's been too long since we were well offshore chasing big grouper, snapper, pelagics and more! Plus, we have the opening of greater amberjack season that kicks of today, Friday, May 1.
The only negative thing to report today offshore is that the gray triggerfish season is coming to an end today. As triggers close, amberjack is opening though.
Amberjack are open the entire month of May and the first few weeks of May will be the best time to get them this year. They will also open in August, September and October but they bite best in cooler months and due to this. We're pumped that we have had some late season fronts to keep water temps a little more moderate.
Thanks to the slower warm-up offshore, we should have a killer start to our amberjack season. These guys can be found as shallow as 100-120 feet of water but if I were trying to get a big dog, I would look more like 150-250 feet on big ledges, peaks, springs or wrecks. The biggest jacks often are deepest or right on top of the ‘school’ when you get anchored up on your fishing spot. We have caught them as deep as 350 feet of water, but most will be caught in that range of 150-250 on our upcoming May fishing trips.
Big baits, big tackle, big patience and even bigger strength and grit is needed to land one of these deep-water behemoth fish. I will often use a 9ot slow-speed monster reel with 40-50lbs of drag or one of those nice 50 wide lever drag reels with that same drag strength to target these fish. 80lb test is the minimum for jacks but I would use 100lb main and 125lb leader to start.
My father uses 130lb mainline and 150lb leader on his heavy duty electric reel for these fish! When I said big baits, I mean HUGE baits, like the 1-3lb fish work well. The amberjack candy are those spadefish you can catch inshore around docks, bridges and passes but blue runners, mullet, and porgies work well too. If you can find the mutant pinfish that looks like it is a world record setter that is a killer bait too. We utilize the 10-12ot circle hooks and tail hook these or nose hook these monster baits on a 6-10ft leader with a heavy 10-16oz lead for the amberjack fishing in deep water.
One trick you want to remember too is to properly set your drag. When grouper fishing for big gags, you would essentially lock down your drag but for jacks you only want 75-80% of your drag in use. You should be able to wrap your mainline around your hand once and with extreme effort and some pain in your hand you should be able to pull out some line.
Once done, your hand should have deep indentions from where the line dug into your skin as you pulled out that little bit of drag. This is the optimal setting for those jacks since they fight so hard and sporadically you got to give them a little room to run with a smooth drag pull. However, they gotta work super hard for it -- too light and he’ll run you around the wreck or your buddy’s line, and off he goes.
Grouper fishing has been good offshore as well. The red grouper is the most coming targeted species right now from around 100-140ft of water we are seeing some great fish coming up on the potholes and ledges and flat, hard-bottom swiss cheese areas. Offshore grouper fishing this time of year since gags are closed, I would be using around 60lb test and a 7ot circle hook with a big frisky live bait.
Mangrove snapper fishing has been hot lately too with some big ones caught around these fat red grouper in that same depth range of the red grouper. Like near shore, the go to move is the high-speed conventional reel with around 30-40lb test leader and a double snelled threadfin plug.
Again, since gags are closed there is no reason to use 50-60lb leader when snapper fishing even offshore. When gags are open, I would use heavier snapper fishing leaders if the bite was still coming because in the off chance a gag hit my snapper set up I can use my two speed reel and heavier leader to give myself a glimmer of hope when trying to land that fish.
If you were using a single speed high speed reel or lighter weight leaders it would be just dumb luck to land a gag that happened to take your snapper fishing bait
For more information from Hubbard’s Marina, head over to their website.