October 2022

October 2022

Hurricane Ian was forecasted with nearly every model in the days leading up to landfall in Florida, to rip right through the heart of Tampa Bay. Within the last 3 days of landfall the forecast began to shift slightly more and more south. While this was a blessing for the bay area, it was a tragedy for Southwest Florida. Hurricane Ian made landfall as a category 4 in Sanibel, Naples, and Fort Myers causing widespread destruction, power outages, storm surge that tore homes and businesses apart. We are praying for those communities and families and hope they rebuild even stronger, as they have shown unbelievable strength and resilience throughout this catastrophic event.

October begins a cooling trend for Tampa Bay, as fall is now officially upon us. This time of year can be one of the most productive months for catching multiplespecies on every fishing outing. From fishing goofy jigs for Pompano under the bridges and throughout the passes on the big swinging tides, to moving out in the bay and causing mayhem on the surface with live bait for mackerel, bonito, cobia, and jacks. The fishing this time of year is some of the best!The water temp will hover around the 70’s, as cold fronts come and go over the next few months. A new hatch of bait is here and while a ¼ net was required the last few weeks, you can now begin throwing a 3/8 net without gilling them, since we are into mid October. The white bait has begun to flood the flats and near shore structures and big bait schools, along with the cooler water temps, have begun to bring the pelagic species such as kingfish, jack crevalle, and mackerel closer to the beaches and into Tampa Bay.

Fall King of the Beach will be November 3rd, 4th, and 5th and registration IS OPEN.

Redfish

Redfish have begun to congregate in bigger schools on the flats and with these dropping temps and lower salinity levels their yearly migration throughout the Gulf is beginning. There can be schools of hundreds of redfish cruising the gulf and in and out of bay over the next 3 months or so. Seeing a school of bull redfish pop up out of nowhere is one of the coolest sites you can see while fishing. These monsters will eat anything thrown their direction and will boil on the surface bringing an entourage of birds looking to get in on the action.

Snook Fishing

The snook bite has been some of the best in recent weeks since the hurricane came through. The storm sucked out a ton of water from the bay and the rain has helped to rapidly cool the water, since we haven’t actually experienced our first cold front of this season. Fishing a few days prior to a cold front will be productive, but as the front is upon us the bite will slow until it has passed and then the fishing will fire off again. Planning trips according to the fronts will help ensure a productive day on the water. One thing that caught me by surprise on my first trip back on the water since the storm was the water clarity. I expected extremely murky water from all of the rainwater and runoff due the vast amount of rain this area received, but the slower sides of the tides have shown clean water in and around the beaches and bay. The fall frenzy has officially begun in Tampa Bay!

Good luck and good fishing,

Capt Skylar Wilks

September 2022

September 2022

September has begun with a number of lengthy storms, in addition to the more typical afternoon showers that are par for the course for summers here in Florida. Therefore, be sure to continually check the forecasts prior to your trip and continually check in on live radar apps such as MyRadar, while on the water.

Water temps are hanging in the high 80’s and with the big swinging tides this time of year the flow of water in and out of the bay has kept the fish feeding throughout the day. Fish deeper pot holes while on the flats and move closer to the mangrove shades as the sun begins to reach its peak midday. The big outgoing afternoon and evening tides have made for some hungry waiting fish on the corners of cuts and oyster bars inshore.

snook caught on Tampa Bay

Our redfish bite is heating up with the big bulls starting to show in the deeper parts of the bay, while the snook bite around the beaches continues to produce. Although the season opened for snook on September 1, please do your best to practice catch and release when possible to continue allowing the species to rebound from the red tide spells and sewage dumps that have severely decreased the population over the last few years.

florida speckled trout

One species I really want to highlight in this report is our speckled trout bite. The numbers of trout in our area since those terrible red tides a handful of years ago, killed off and moved out just about every trout in our region. However, over the last couple of months we have been consistently catching trout. Not only are we seeingbigger numbers of trout caught, but actually bigger sizes of trout, which is a good sign for breeders continuing to reproduce and strengthen the population going forward.

The Spanish Mackerel bite has turned on in the bay and near shore, along with the mangrove snapper. On a few trips lately, we have managed to catch some of the biggest mangrove snapper this year, some coming in the 18-inch+ranges. The bait has been steady and you can expect a mixed size of smaller baits in shallow water and near the surface, while the bigger baits are sitting close to the bottom in cooler water. Mojarras are a money bait ticket in the summer, as the big snook and redfish can rarely turn them down.

Good luck out there this month,

Capt. Skylar

August 2022

August 2022

August is upon us and that means we still have another 2 months of hot weather and high water temps. The afternoon rain storms have helped keep the water temps from remaining too long in the blistering 90’s, although still holding in the mid-high 80’s. During the spells of high water temps, it is best to fish high current areas and beach fronts.

Back-waters this time of year have low oxygen levels and without much moving water, the lack of nutrients can cause lethargic, uninterested fish. Even areas closer to the gulf and bay with moving water and higher oxygen levels will lead to a tough bite around slack tide for the same reasons. However, around the full and new moons the bite has been spectacular with the big swinging tides. The tarpon numbers are beginning to thin out around the bay as they continue on their migration. Although some fish are still being caught, most fish this time of year are eating dead baits on the bottom, often without even seeing any on the surface. The redfish bite should be heating up in deeper areas of the bay and around Egmont Key, free-lined live pinfish has been the key however, as the fall approaches we will start to see the bigger schools of bull redfish moving in and out nearshore.

The snook bite slowed for us towards the end of July, although it is beginning to ramp up again, as we have bigger tides approaching another full moon on August 11th. This is a fun time of year to try something different and cruise the bay and shipping channel buoys for Cobia and Tripletail, as the bite has been good for them lately. Bait around the flats moved out all of the sudden making catching white bait the last few weeks of July a mission. However, small hatch bait has moved back onto the flats and bigger, better baits are being caught down deep at the Skyway and Desoto Gulf Pier. Summer time shrimp are tiny, so if you’re unable to catch live bait opt for buck tail jigs and small swim baits to get the job done. Both of these species make for a fun fight and even better table fare, if lucky enough to catch a keeper!

Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, sometime in late July the governing bodies had decided to release an undisclosed number of gallons of polluted wastewater into the Bay AGAIN, at Piney Point. “Since the beginning of the year, 27 inches of rain have accumulated in one of the gypsum stacks at the former Piney Point phosphate processing plant, and the plan is to pump that stormwater into Tampa Bay.” (https://wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu/environment/2022-07-28/millions-gallons-piney-point-stormwater-released-tampa-bay ) Although it appears we may have been fortunate enough to dodge any real effects of red tide in our area this summer, this “release” will certainly not be good for our fishery. The verbiage used in the press release regarding the waste water discharge was vague and did not express any clear action plan or projected extent of ill-effects to be felt. I fished south of the Skyway on July 28th and half of my live-well died all of the sudden, which I can only assume was from the release or excessive rainwater runoff from the local area.

Lobster season opens August 6th and I will be heading down to Islamorada for the first few days of season. For everyone going, stay safe and have fun. I’m looking forward to a great month of August fishing in the Bay on my return.

Capt. Skylar

July 2022

July 2022

The tides to start July have been sluggish and with the water sitting at a steady 90 degrees, the lack of oxygen has made for a tough inshore bite. These lackluster tides have come in in the wakeof June’s full and new moons, which createdstellar bites both inshore, and off the beach for Tarpon, for roughly a 2-week stretch. The Tarpon bite for July should be turning up within the next week or so, as the full moon is set for July 13th this month. The summer months give us our highest high tides and we are currently in a summer hill tide stretch. This gives us a steady incoming morning tide and massive outgoing tide in the afternoon. I prefer to fish the beginning of the outgoing tide this time of year, as the water pulls large numbers of fish like snook and trout into deeper holes, passes, and wave swashes. These fish will typically choosebeach edges where the tide is ripping and wait to ambush bait as it gets swept out with the tide.

snook fishing on tampa bay

These afternoon outgoing tides are also a great time to target tarpon. Although the tides haven’t been strong enough to flush crabs for the last two weeks, it still gives you a good chance of drifting baits like threadfins around structure to these fish.

tarpon fishing

On these big outgoing tides, look for areas where the water is being pushed over shallow points into deeper areas such as a pass. Egmont key is a great example of this and where a number of our bites have been coming from on recent trips. The water on an outgoing tide rushes over the shallow sandbars and into the deeper water, where these fish have been sitting in large numbers. When the tide isn’t moving very fast, Tarpon don’t need to expend much energy, therefore they will sit at the bottom in the deeper water. This scenario is a prime example where Structure Scan/Side Scan bottom machines can help to identify where the schools are sitting in the deeper water. This allows you to position the boat up current and drift the baits down to the school.

tarpon fishing

Good luck this month,

Capt. Skylar

June 2022

June 2022

June 1st officially kicks off hurricane season and without missing a beat, the very first weekend we had Tropical Storm Alex push through South Florida. This system was partially from the remnants of Hurricane Agatha, a cat 2 hurricane that hit Mexico and made its way into the Gulf. While the Tampa Bay Area only experienced rain and some wind gusts, it did lower our water temp and water clarity for a few of the following days. The water the last few weeks has been gin clear, making the beach fishing a little tougher to get a bite, however, much more exciting for stalking fish in the shallows.

Tarpon season is rolling along with double-digit hook-up days not being uncommon. There are schools of fish milling around on the shallow bars off the beach, as well as the deeper pockets in the bay around Egmont Key and the staples of the area, including Bean Point, and the Skyway, on fast moving tides. The afternoon outgoing tide has created some unforgettable fishing around the bridges and passes, while the mornings have produced a little better on the beaches. The crabs have flushed on and off the last few weeks while some strong outgoing tides have pushed only a small amount of crabs to the surface and other afternoons they have moved through the bridges in massive numbers. Live and dead shad have been a solid option for presentations on the lighter crab flushes around the bridges, while live pass crabs on the beaches have been the ticket, especially in the mornings.

The snook have certainly started moving up and down the beaches in larger numbers in early June, as some will begin spawning this month. The Full Strawberry Moon will occur on Tuesday, June 14th 2022. The week leading up to this phase and the week after the moon phase will push a ton of water into the bay and create a massive outgoing tide schedule in the afternoons, which will have the fish chewing. Tarpon will typically push offshore during this moon phase to spawn so leading up to the full moon will certainly have them hungry. Snook, however, will remain in the passes and keep to deeper, faster tidal areas to spawn during this moon phase and will also be looking for big meals in the week(s) leading up to it.

June 1st opens up for one of our fisheries most sought after table fare, Gag Grouper. Gag Grouper need to be a minimum of 24 inches to keep and eat a wide variety of baits including: diving plugs, flair hawks, and jigs, as well as live bait such as pinfish and sardines. You’ll need to fish around heavy structure for these fish and beef up your tackle to 40-60lb leader and a 4-7/0 hook. Don’t be surprised if you get taken for a ride and the “rocked” as these fish will bury themselves under cover and push their thick gill plates out making them extremely hard to catch. If you don’t use strong enough leader, it is not uncommon for the gag bite to shut off once you lose a fish. Therefore, the first few drops/casts are important. 

Good Luck this Month,

Capt. Skylar

MAY 2022

MAY 2022

The month of May creates a perfect recipe for unforgettable fishing days. The weather is in the upper 70’s, the water is in the low 80’s, the offshore fish are moving in, and the inshore fish are moving out. Fishing just off of the beach can easily land you more species than you can count on one hand.

tarpon fishing

For one, the kingfish bite remains steady this month. Two, the tarpon are here in large numbers. Three, the snook bite is turning on in the passes and along the beaches. Four, the big jack crevalle are all over the beaches. And 5, the (big) sharks are lurking in close (if that’s your thing). One fish that didn’t make my top 5 most targeted fish this month, which definitely should be worth mentioning, is redfish. Although they are certainly around during this month and we have been seeing steady numbers being caught on our trips, it’s not all that often in May we set out strictly for them. I run most of my trips this month off of the beaches and in the passes, focusing our efforts near Fort Desoto, Bunces Pass, Egmont Key, and into Tampa Bay, sometimes even south of the Skyway, depending on weather and wind direction.

We get a lot of easterly winds this month, which helps to lay the beach down to a ripple, and with crystal clear water it’s tough not to run out there trip after trip. The pilchards, small threadfins, and pinfish, are still all over the flats, which makes catching bait and fishing inshore into an easy change of plans if the weather isn’t cooperating, by keeping out of the wind behind mangroves and around spoil islands. We have a full moon and Total Lunar Eclipse on May 15th-16th, I expect larger numbers of Tarpon to continue moving north during this week and Tampa Bay will see more big fish move in, as we move closer the peak season in June and July.

florida fishing

Certainly a lot to look forward to this month and a massive array of species to target, with this month of great weather and great fishing opportunities, here in the Bay Area.

Good Luck this Month,

Capt. Skylar

April 2022

April 2022

Spring has kicked into high gear with March closing out with a final cooling spell and some windy days. However, the fishing was stellar with about 3 weeks now of consistent water temps. April-July spring and summer times bring some of the best fishing Tampa Bay has to offer.

Our inshore species are feeding heavy before the summer spawning months and with an excess of bait around this time of year, they are chewing for extended periods throughout the day. We have two important new moons, May 30th and June 28th when the snook, in particular, choose to spawn with the stronger tides present. Snook are all born males and some transition to females between one and seven years old or 12-35 inches. Therefore, many of the monster snook that are caught are most likely breeder females. Many of the migrating tarpon will also push offshore for their spawning rituals around the full moons, as well. Therefore, the last 2 weeks of both May and June will offer some great chances at hooking a hungry female fish. 

These springtime months offer a huge array of species you can target no matter the time of day or tide. Bonito and big jack crevalle have made their way into the bay and along the coastline along with a large presence of Spanish mackerel and King mackerel. This last week or two, the kingfish bite has really taken off after the brief cooler days the first weekend of April. The big fish are moving closer and closer inshore as bait schools congregate so vastly they look like rain hitting the water when passing predators tear through them from below. Cobia are still very present and active in the bay cruising around the buoys and showing up to chum blocks while fishing near shore. The big fish are here because the pilchards are palm sized, big threadfin are covering the bridges, cigar minnows and blue runners are circling the near shore structures, and pinfish and ladyfish are all over the flats and beaches. All of these factors also give way to the most sought after fish people wait all year for, the tarpon. There have been a few reports recently of boats starting to hook into these fun fighters, as the conditions are right for their annual migration north, up Florida’s coast. Pass crabs have been flushing more and more with these last two full moons, which is a staple for migratingTarpon.

This year’s spring King of the Beach is sure to be a good one, with big kingfish being caught day after day, and their numbers sky rocketing as boats don’t have to travel far at all to get shots at them. March is historically a windy month and this year was no exception, but aside from April afternoon showers it is shaping up to begreat weather for the big weekend!

March 2022

March 2022

As March begins the warming trend leading up to summer, the redfish are on the move. We have for the first time this winter had water temps move in the 70’s and hold for any length of time. The first week of March has ranged from 70 degrees to 76 degrees at times. There was lots of sunshine, bait, and negative tides for the past few days. The snook have become fired up in tidal points and mangrove shadows, as the water would rapidly increase 4-5 degrees within a few hour span and the fish would retreat under the trees for cover. March is a transitional month; redfish and snook begin to make their way out of the backwaters and creeks heading for spawning grounds and bigger meals, in the bay and in the passes.       

March is notorious for windy days and with a cold front coming through the weekend of the 12th, the wind gusts are calling for 30+. However, aside from the front the bait is starting to show up on the flats in bigger schools and sizes, while threadfins have started to take over the bridges and piers, pass crabs have also begun to flush. March – May are my favorite months to fish and with spring break upon us, guiding is in full swing. This warming trend has brought the deeper water fish in closer to the beaches.

These springtime months give way for fish like mackerel and bonito, as species like sheepshead, begin to slow down as they move to deeper, cooler, water. If this trend continues, we should see that 75-degree mark sustained as kingfish will move in toward the beaches and tarpon will begin their migration north.

Good luck this month……Capt. Skylar

Capt. Skylar Wilks

January 2022

January 2022

January continues the traditional pattern of a cold front just about every 7 days or so. The water ranges from high 50’s, which I haven’t seen yet this season, to about 73 or so, with the water temp hanging around the mid to upper 60’s for most of the month. Planning for these cold front patterns and tides in January can drastically increase your chances for catching more fish in Tampa Bay. What is biting right now? And, how do I plan my trips? These are two questions I get asked most often in the colder months, when some people are surprised to hear that actually the coldest months of the year can still produce incredible fishing days.

For starters, yes, cold fronts do shut the fish down for a period of time once the front arrives. The rule of thumb I follow says, the two days prior to the front and the 2 days post a cold front are some of the best fishing scenarios you can get in the winter. That time frame, together with a strong tide, will shock you at how aggressive some of the fish will feed in the slower more lethargic months. You’ll notice not even how aggressive just the fish are, but also other wildlife as well. Birds, especially terns, will tirelessly dive after your baits and dolphins will even eat your fish right off the line during a front.

redfish

 Can you still catch fish? Yes, absolutely, but sight fishing is a frustrating and often unproductive way to target our inshore species during a front. Instead, bump off the flats into deeper pockets where these fish will actually congregate in tighter, bigger numbers. You probably won’t get the entire school to feed, but a lot of the times with live bait especially, a few fish in the school can’t resist. Live bait is still all over the flats, which is great, but a little strange for this time of year, although we also haven’t had many lingering cold fronts to keep the water temp down for a long period of time. Our shrimp are colossal right now and plentiful, which is a good go-to for this time of year in getting the lethargic fish to feed. Flounder have become a staple in recent trips and sheepshead fishing is still ramped up. Redfish are being caught in deeper areas during fronts and shallow muddy bottoms before and after the fronts foraging for food. Snook are still around, but many of the big ones have retreated to the creeks and river mouths seeking warmer water.

sheepshead

Happy New Year of fishing and good luck this month!

Capt. Skylar Wilks

December 2021

December 2021

December begins the month of holiday cheer with Christmas rapidly approaching!The first week of December has given us just about a full week of breathless wind and between 66-69 degree water temps. Inshore and near shore, the visibility has been top to bottom, clear as glass, and slick calm conditions. These are the perfect recipes for sight fishing backwaters, with the negative low winter tides.

Many of the snook and redfish schools have retreated into creek mouths, rivers, and back country for the cold months. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for their next meal, they’re just a little more lethargic and not always looking to expend energy chasing baits. Therefore, switching to slower retrievals with artificials such as jerk shads, pop and stop shrimp, and crab imitators can be a great option.

As for live bait, there is still a lot of bait on the flats; so live baiting is still productive. The shrimp right now are colossal, which is great for casting distance but hinders a quiet presentation, which may send these spooky fish scurrying, especially with the recent slick conditions. On a recent fly-fishing trip even some of the heavier fly presentations 5 feet or so away sent the fish packing. One way to combat this with a live shrimp or any artificial really, is to identify the “highway” they are traveling (a certain depth, contour, grass line, pothole, etc.) and cast way in front of where the fish are traveling. This lets the fish find the bait instead of trying to present it to the fish, as you can often get away with during other times of the year or under different conditions.

The fall and winter months are historically great months for Mackerel and Kingfish near shore. However, this year produced a weak showing for both and I infer this is because of the lack of bait coming near shore due to the prominent red tide we experienced this summer that lingered all the way out to 10-15 miles off the beach for some time.

Check your tide tables and plot your courses inshore prior to your trips this time of year, fish potholes on low tide, and look for wading white birds as a good indicator of productive areas that will hold fish.

 Good luck this month and Merry Christmas!