Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tarpon Springs Fishing Report 12-2011

Tampa Fishing Reports
December 2011 Tampa Fishing Report
by Stewart Ames

sea trout

With winter rapidly approaching, the fish targeted on Tampa fishing charters will become much more predictable. Large seatrout will become the primary species and, although not open until January 1st south of Fred Howard Park, will provide consistent action. As the water is not real cold yet, these fish should readily eat suspending plugs and swim tail plastic jigs. Anglers fortunate enough to get on the water during the early hours of the day on a calm morning during the week can successfully entice big trout to crash surface lures as well. Although bringing home a limit of trout to eat is a primary motivator for many anglers, those wishing to enjoy some great sport should fish before the season opens as action will be strong and fishing pressure much lighter. On productive days, catching 15 to 20 trout over twenty inches is a realistic expectation. From a live bait perspective, most Tampa fishing guides start each day well stocked with select shrimp when big trout are the focus. Fishing these under a slip bobber is a can't miss proposition although, on days when fish are less aggressive, simply free-lining a shrimp can be another productive approach.


November RefishThe other logical early winter target is the redfish. Once November rolls around, many areas holding larger redfish see an influx of smaller fish and a departure of the larger ones. True to form, recent Tampa fishing charters targeting redfish are being rewarded with good numbers, but fish are ranging from 16 to 23 inches. Nevertheless, there's decent action and fillets for the table. The big breeder redfish action appears to have subsided so areas prospected by Tampa fishing guides for these fish will probably get little attention until next year. Tampa redfish dinnerDocks and oyster bars become much more important structures for redfish in the winter...maybe because of the abundance of small crabs. With other bait fish becoming more scarce, these locations may offer better dining options. Also, dark oyster bars and and dark muddy bottoms found around residential docks may hold heat a little better as well. Whatever the reason, these locations, along with some of the spoil islands along the inter-coastal waterway, are good areas to target. With redfish being crustacean focused, shrimp are probably the most effective winter bait. A good second choice would be smaller pieces of cut bait and small pinfish. "Bobbering" and "free-lining" a shrimp are two effective tactics when fishing oyster bars. Docks are best fished with heavy split shots to facilitate accurate casting and to hold your bait in a desired location away from pilings.



Big Tampa Shallow water grouperNear shore gag grouper fishing was as good this year as it has been in quite some time, making the grouper season closure next year even more perplexing. The latest word is that the season will open from July 1st through October 31st, which translates to two things. Anglers wanting to catch grouper during the open season next year will need to burn some gas as fish will be deep and inshore Tampa fishing charters that target grouper during the late fall will not be allowed to harvest them. Tampa Fishing for fall grouperNevertheless, Tampa fishing guides working depths from 20 the 35 feet consistently found fish over the last month. Although there were days when only one or two legal fish were hooked, most trips resulted in several quality fish being landed. Unlike grouper hooked at greater depths, large fish hooked in shallow water tend to run "sideways", giving the angler a clear indication of where the rock is that they are running to. The initial strike of a big fish could safely be classified as violent in this shallow water. With pinfish migrating out to these near shore rocks and large thread herring suspending a quarter mile off the beach, grouper were perfectly willing to eat both although, interestingly, showed a strong preference for one or the other on certain days. Heavy conventional grouper tackle was the standardAssorted fish on fall Tampa Fishing Charter approach employed by most Tampa fishing guides however when fish became reluctant to eat, going to lighter tackle and less weight would often trigger three or four strikes in a row on a spot that had yielded no bites with the heavier gear...dispelling any theory that grouper aren't occasionally line or "heavy sinker"shy.


Although there are few fish better to eat than the grouper, two other species were fairly abundant this year in the same areas targeted for grouper...the black seabass and the flounder. Both provide exceptionally tasting fillets. Flounder, laid up on sand bottoms Tampa's best fish dinnerimmediately adjacent to these near shore limestone "patch reefs", would eat smaller pinfish and cut baits. Tampa Fishing for flounderSeabass would eat the same offerings as, even though smaller in size, they have big mouthes. Once seabass approach about a foot in length, they are worthy of filleting. Legal length is 10 inches. It may take two or three to feed one hungry person but when placed side by side with grouper in a taste comparison, most people will choose saebass, which is actually a grouper, as the tastiest. So even after grouper season closed on the 15th, catching grouper on light tackle for sport and bringing home some seabass and grunts to eat made for an enjoyable day. If the tide was strong enough, some Tampa fishing guides would split thier time between grouper and redfish, providing a nice mix of onshore and offhsore fishing.


As winter descends upon us, good fishing days will be determined by two factors....strong tides and the movement of weather fronts. Like most fishing, winter fishing for trout and redfish is almost always better on days with good tidal movement. The other critical factor is the timing of the cold fronts. Fishing the days in front of an approaching cold front is almost always productive. Fishing immediately after is usually frustrating and disappointing. So, look for strong tide days in front of an approaching front and you've given yourself the best odds for a good day of winter fishing. Good luck and good fishing.

Captain Stewart Ames

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