A Career Day on Tampa Bay
Capt. Fred Everson
September 15, 2009
Tampa Bay - Saltwater Fishing Report
After weeks of slow fishing in late August, things finally picked up the first week in September. The water condition still remains warm and murky, but the bite has certainly picked up.
Keli Emery and I had a career day in the middle of the bay last week after spending a couple of hours on the flats trying to net sardines. We didn't have much luck with them, but did catch enough pinfish to last us all day on most days. But this day would be different.
The first spot we pulled up to Emery pitched a bait out to see if the fish were there and it got hit almost immediately. I set the anchor and the boat positioned itself perfectly on the slow incoming tide. We were bottom fishing here, using half-ounce egg sinkers and casting up current. It took about five seconds before the lead hit the bottom, and then that was followed by a strike.
For the better part of two hours we caught 10 of the biggest mangrove snapper I have ever seen, four grouper over 22 inches, and another 10 shorts. We filled both coolers with fish to the point where we had to drink warm beverages. I don't know what's up with snapper this year. I've caught them in numbers like this a couple of years ago, but those fish were much smaller. The limit is five fish with a meager limit ten-inch minimum length, but I don't like to keep them less than 13 or 14 inches – such fish are hardly worth the effort to clean. But the fish we caught last week were mostly between 15 and 24 inches. The filets off such fish are about as good a meal as any fish on Tampa Bay can offer, so we were pretty excited. Add the grouper into the mix and you have the makings of a career day on the bay.
Then to finish off the day we decided to try the inshore bite for redfish and snook. We used the same baits on the same rigs we did for bottom fishing – an egg sinker slip rigged to a 30-pound fluorocarbon leader and a 3/0 hook. It's interesting to note that I began the day using a regular 30-pound monofilament leader. Emery had six fish in the boat before I had the first bite, so I figured it had to be the leader, and soon as I changed to fluorocarbon it was game on. I was never too sure before this if fluorocarbon actually made that big a difference, but there's the proof.
Our inshore outing was also productive. We caught three redfish and two short snook in about a half an hour. With no room in the cooler we took it back to the dock and got down to the onerous task of fish cleaning. All in all, I would have to say that this was the best day of fishing I've had on Tampa Bay in terms of quantity and eating quality of the fish we caught.
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