Tampa Fishing Report June 2008

2008-05-29 16:09:18
Tampa, Florida - Saltwater Fishing Report
Tampa, St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Clearwater, Sarasota
Woody Gore

As a strong advocate of catch and release I thought I’d put a few words together about catching and safe leasing the things that bring us so much enjoyment. They are ours to protect and should we fail… shame on us.

Let’s start with what drives Florida’s economy and that’s tourism which brings approximately forty million people to Florida yearly. Florida's resident population of 14.7 million increases daily and with more than 40 million tourists, most with coastal destinations it’s easy to understand why fishing continues to increase significantly over the past decades.

As a favorite activity of its residents and visitors, anglers make approximately 20 million fishing trips, catch somewhere around 141 million fish and responsibly release approximately 50% of everything they caught. Even with a significant number being released the question remains… did they live after they where released?

Protect the fish…

After being caught and released fish die for a variety of reasons but usually surrender to the physiological stresses experienced during capture, injuries from the hook, or even the angler. Though they may appear unharmed some still die in spite of our efforts to revive. As unwilling participants caught in a life or death struggle to escape, often and for our own gratification we needlessly cause them to struggle intensely for long periods. This unnecessary extended struggle causes an excessive accumulation of lactic acid to develop within their muscles and blood sending them into a state of complete exhaustion. This ruthless battle to exhaustion ultimately causes physiological stress imbalances resulting in muscle failure, and more often death.

Land it Quick:

As a result it’s important to use the proper weight-class tackle, land the fish quickly, and leave it in the water whenever possible. Immediately bringing a physically exhausted fish out of the water prevents it from getting what it needs most to recover… Oxygen! (The example often used to describe what a fish might experience would be the same thing a marathon runner may experience if a placed a plastic bag was placed over their head immediately after crossing the finish line.)

Taking a Photo:

Whenever a photo is required, allow the fish to rest and recover quietly beside the boat for a few minutes. Gently lift it from the water, support it horizontally with a wet hand, snap a couple of quick photos, and gently return it to the water taking a moment to revive it if necessary.

Circle Hooks Help Protect

Wounds caused by hooks may appear minor to us however damage to gills, eyes, throats or internal organs are often fatal. Studies show it’s best to cut the leader at the hook and leave it in a fish that’s gut-hooked or hooked deep in its throat. Often fish are capable of eliminating, ousting, or encapsulating foreign objects like a hook. And long drawn out attempts to remove them often causes more damage. Circle hooks however help eliminate those damaging deep hook sets.

Centuries ago circle hooks where made from bone, shell, stone, ivory and sometimes wood. However, after decades of catching fish we’ve seen them emerge into what we know today. Circle hooks actually gained heavy acceptance in the unmanned long-line fishing industry. Commercial anglers discovered that when hooked in the outer part of the mouth, fish survived longer and because it’s rounded inward it was difficult for a fish to displace it and get away.

Go Barb-less or Crimp them down

Circle hooks are the way to go and your catch ratios will improve. Many hooks are available without barbs and if you don’t have some; simply crimp the barbs on your existing hooks. You’ll still catch the same amount of fish, cause less physical damage and find the hooks much easier to remove.

Another reason for Artificial Lures:

Artificial lures normally result in less damaging hook-ups because the lures are generally in motion and the hook set happens before its swallowed. Controlled studies indicate that most fish released after hook-and-line capture can survive. However these studies also show that many die as a direct result of being deeply hooked as a result of swallowing live or dead baits. Hook position can definitely affect survival rates and those hooked in the gills, throat or gut normally have a lower survival rate than those hooked in the mouth.

Analysis conducted on several species demonstrated that using live or dead bait often results in the number of hook-related deaths. Regardless of any statistics anglers using live and dead baits should always stay alert for a quick hook-set whenever they feel a bite. Never allow the fish to run because this significantly increases the chances damage.

Maximizing Catch-and-Release Survival

The most important action anglers can take to ensure a successful release is to hook and land the fish quickly, leave it in the water while removing the hook, and make a quick release. Large species such as Sharks and Tarpon should be brought alongside within 20 minutes and the average inshore species with a few minutes of being hooked. If you’re consistently landing exhausted fish, requiring extensive efforts at resuscitation, you might consider using heavier tackle.

Every time you must handle a fish make certain your hands or gloves are wet and never lay a fish on a hot boat deck to remove a hook. Place it on a wet towel to help protect its slime coat and cover its eyes with a wet towel to keep it still. Control the fish at all times! If you drop it the chances of damage and death increase.

Make Your Decision Early

When you’ve caught and landed a fish, in no way engage in a lingering discussion over whether or not to release it. Decide beforehand what you’re going to keep and immediately release the others. Once you make a decision to keep a fish, stick with it. A fish released from a live well has a decreased chance of survival.

Releasing Big Fish

Tarpon, Cobia, or Sharks should never be removed from the water because they are often injured when lifted or hauled over the side of a boat so leave them in the water. Take your photographs in the water and turn them loose. Have the necessary tools available, long-nosed pliers or a hook-removal device comes in handy when a hook is difficult to remove by hand. Note of caution: Many times I’ve had a larger shark come from under the boat and grab a Tarpon I was de-hooking. So, be ever vigilant to the presence of larger predators stalking your catch. Make certain your hand is not part of a quick meal.

Never lift or pull on the leader of a gut-hooked fish to find the hook. If you cannot see in the outer edges of the mouth it’s safe to assume it’s in a vital area and causing damage. Therefore any additional lifting or pulling only causes more damage. Simply release the fish by cutting the leader as close to the hook as possible.

Reviving Your Catch

If the fish is in good shape, put it back into the water headfirst. On the other hand when you release a fish and it doesn’t swim away, is lethargic, or erratic it may require some form of resuscitation. The best method of reviving an exhausted but healthy fish is to place one hand under the tail holding the bottom lip with the other. Provided the fish is in fair to good shape, hold it headfirst into the current when possible. If it is severely exhausted, depress the bottom lip to cause the jaw to gape and gently move the fish forward. Never us an irregular back and forth motion as this only induces additional stress. The moment the fish attempts to swim away… let it go.

In closing let’s be sure to teach your children and inexperienced anglers these few simple procedures. Anything we can do to educate others helps ensure abundant fish populations for the future. Always practice and share new techniques to protect our fisheries and these creatures that bring us joy.

Let’s Go Fishing in Tampa Bay:

Tampa Bay offers excellent angling for over 200 species of fish. Tampa Bay starts at the extreme north end all the way down to the Skyway Bridge. Pick a good day with a respectable incoming or outgoing tide and catch fish. Many places are fishable from land for shore anglers or accessible to those who like to wade. For those with boats or Kayaks there are many public and private boat ramps located throughout the bay area.

Here are some areas to help you get started: You can read all the fishing reports available but remember… no one is going to give up that exact location. But if you have a good place to start the rest is easy to figure out.

North - Safety Harbor to Howard Franklin Bridge:

Safety Harbor tidal flats, Double Branch/Rocky Creek grass flats, Mangroves & Oyster shoreline from Big Island to St Petersburg/Clearwater airport, Both sides of the Courtney Campbell Causeway (good wading but watch for deep holes), Cypress grass flats on the eastern shore north of Howard Franklin Bridge to the Courtney Campbell Causeway (good wading but watch for deep holes), Rocky Point grass flats, rocks and oysters bars off the point (good wading but watch for deep holes.)

Central - South of Howard Franklin to St. Petersburg Pier:

The old Gandy Bridge has a fishing walk-way on both the Tampa and St. Petersburg side and offers some good fishing on moving water, There is a public boat ramp on the Tampa side of the Gandy Bridge, St. Petersburg fishing pier also offers a variety of fishing, the west shoreline grass flats just north of Gandy Bridge (good wading-watch for deeper holes), Howard Franklin Artificial Reef, East shoreline grass flats (3-6 foot depth) north of Gandy Bridge to Howard Franklin, Picnic Island grass flats (watch for restricted zone signs at Mac Dill Air Force Base to the east), Weedon Island outside grass flats (2-3 foot depth between no motor signs and no wake signs) and outside no wake signs, Apollo Beach grass flats between Alafia River and Simmons Park, (Alafia River Williams Park and Simmons Park has a public boat ramps.)

South – South of St. Petersburg Fishing Pier past the Skyway Bridge:

The old Skyway Bridge is now proclaimed as the world longest fishing pier with access from both the north and south end. You can drive your vehicle to where you want to fish, take advantage of the bait house for tackle and bait, and enjoy a day catching fish, Western shoreline grass flats south of St. Petersburg Pier to Pinellas Point, There is a public boat ramp located on Cockroach Bay Rd. use with caution because there are reports of vandalism and theft to vehicles. Eastern shoreline grass flats from Simmons Park to Joe Bay. Excellent grass flats from the (no wake signs) to the eastern shore including Little Manatee River, Little Cockroach Bay, Cockroach Bay, Piney Point, Port Manatee (new 500 yard restricted area around Manbirtee Key (Spoil Island), Bishops Harbor, and the outside grass flats of Joe Bay, Grass flats along the eastside of the Skyway Bridge Causeway, the grass flats along the west side of the Skyway Causeway to the gulf around Tarpon Key, Indian Key, Boca Ciega, Boca Ciega Bay, and Ft Desoto (some wading-watch for holes)

Snook (It’s Over till September 1, 2008 – Put Them Back Safely)

The Tampa Bay Snook bite’s been excellent around the mangroves on high water and on the grass flats early AM. Greenbacks, Shrimp, Pinfish and artificial lures are working especially the topwater’s early in the AM.

Redfish (No closed season, one fish per person per day, within the 18” to 27” slot limit)

Redfish are popping up all over the bay and pushing into shallower water as the tide climbs. There is no shortage of large mullet schools and Redfish aren’t far behind. Green backs, small pinfish, shrimp and for those that like pitching soft plastics and topwater’s around the mangroves you can expect some great action on high in coming tides. If you’re lucky to find a school moving around a shoreline, setup and wait they will move back and forth when feeding. Chasing them only causes them to scatter.

Spotted Sea Trout

Some good catches on incoming or outgoing tides around deep water flats in two to six feet range are producing fish to 22 inches. As always live free-lined greenback or shrimp are the best baits for Trout. Or suspend either under Paradise Popper cork with a medium split-shot about 8” about a 2/0 circle hook then find any good grass flat and catch all the trout you want this month. Using topwater popping plugs or soft plastic jerkbaits and fishing broken bottom grass flats especially the grassy potholes can offer artificial anglers some nice action.

Mackerel, Sharks, Cobia, Kings and Tarpon

Mackerel are showing up all over the bay find a school of Threadfins, start chumming and hold on. I’ve been catching them up to 6 and 7 lbs. using long shank 2/0 hooks and fifty pound Seaguar Fluorocarbon leader. Try a popping cork and split shot like you would for Trout. It works well when the Threadfins are really thick. Cobia: I’ve been seeing a few Cobias around the bay most are cruising markers or following large rays or manatees around the flats. Tarpon are at the Skyway. Grab a few Threadfins for large Greenbacks a slow in or out tide anchor and chum by cutting some bait into pieces. Kingfish: Kings are still running the beach between five and seven miles offshore. Hard bottom bait schools, chum bags and slow trolling does the trick.

“GIVE ME A CALL & LET”S GO FISHING” Capt. Woody Gore’s been fishing in Florida for over 50 years and offers guided fishing charters in Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Clearwater, and Tarpon Springs. For more information or to book a trip: Call or email a reservation request form from my website: Cell: 813-477-3814 Office: 813-982-2034

Email: wgore@ix.netcom.com Website: www.captainwoodygore.com

Fish Species: Snook, Tarpon, Redfish, Trout, Cobia, Mackerel, Sharks
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Woody Gore

About The Author: Captain Woody Gore

Company: Captain Woody Gore Charters

Area Reporting: Tampa Bay, Clearwater, St. Petersburg

Bio: Born and raised in Tampa, Capt. Woody developed a passion for fishing as a child and years later, he is still expanding his fishing knowledge base and skill levels. Now with over 50 years of worldwide fishing experience he does everything possible to create an unforgettable and world class fishing adventure.

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