Tampa Fishing Report May 2008

2008-05-29 16:07:15
Tampa, Florida - Saltwater Fishing Report
Tampa, St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Clearwater, Sarasota
Woody Gore

Greenbacks – Whitebait – Scaled Sardines

Probably the number one live bait used in the bay area is a scaled sardine. Almost every saltwater fish loves a nice sardine free-lined or under a cork. Anglers call them greenbacks, whitebait, or sardines but there all the same and should not be confused with the Threadfin Herring also found in the bay.

To begin we need to know what greenbacks are. The proper name is Scaled Sardine and the scientific name is Harengula Jaguana. They are a fast growing, short-lived fish that complete their life span in a little more than one year and are common in both off-shore and near-shore waters along both Florida coasts. When looking for them in early spring and summer your best bet is structure, bridges and buoys, and most of Tampa Bays grass flats. On calm mornings you can see them tinkling like raindrops on the surface with an occasional flip out of the water. Once you’ve seen it, it will become more recognizable in the future.

A question often asked is what is the difference between a greenback and a threadfin? When you look at them side-by-side it is not hard to distinguish one from the other. The sardine has a slightly larger head and eye, predominately-sharper belly, no ray from dorsal fin, olive to dark green back, silver sides and belly and a faint dark spot on the upper gill plate. The threadfin is distinguishable by the prolonged last ray of its dorsal fin. With a bluish-black back, silver sides and belly. Their scales along the back have dark centers, and there is a dark spot just behind the upper gill plate cover.

Now that we understand what they are… how do you catch them? Some anglers use a Sabiki Rig on a rod and reel. This method works but it’s time consuming and limits the amount of bait you’ll have. Others have learned to throw a cast net allowing them get several hundred in a single throw. Cast nets are not difficult to throw but you will need some instruction and a little practice. I would suggest having two mesh sizes 1/4 and 3/8 inch and nothing less than 8 foot or more than 10 as they are easier to throw than shorter nets. A good net will cost you somewhere around $100 to $250. I’ve thrown cast nets for many years and believe me when I tell you… a well made net is much easier to throw and last longer than the bargain discounts. One last point about a cast net is proper care which is vital to maintaining its casting and opening ability. So, when you’re cleaning the boat and tackle be sure to wash your net with fresh water and store it away from direct sunlight.

If you’re planning on netting your bait what do you use to attract them? Chum is the answer. Asks ten live bait anglers what they use and you’ll never get the same answer. Anglers are always inventing their own special formulas which often requires some pretty fancy mixing and a variety of ingredients. Some include sand, oatmeal, rice, macaroni, dog food, cat food, fish oil, anise, soybeans, grits, cornmeal, bread… the list is endless. Probably the number one ingredient for any chum is oil. Not any oil, but the stomach-turning stinky kind called Menhaden fish oil. Without a doubt this is the most awful stuff you will ever put your hands in and if you get it on your clothing, it never comes out.

Here is a simple three ingredient sure-fire mixture many have used for years and it works every time. It is a combination of fish food, canned Jack Mackerel and menhaden fish oil. Empty two cans of jack mackerel into a two-gallon bucket mixing and breaking it into very small pieces, add four to five cups of fish food and two to three cups of Menhaden fish oil and mix everything thoroughly. Now you are ready to go get greenbacks.

Many feed stores carry fish food and your local tackle shop should have Menhaden oil and Jack Mackerel. Your local grocer also carries Jack Mackerel. This mixture tends to appeal to greenbacks and not threadfins and you’ll recognize the difference, as the greenbacks will be eating mixture and threadfins swimming through it. This mixture also attracts pinfish and that pesky old catfish. Safety point here is always use caution when removing catfish from your net. They have sharp, barbed slime covered fins that can quickly penetrate a finger or hand. If you are wounded, make certain to treat it immediately with a good disinfectant and watch it for infection. If it becomes infected seek medical attention immediately “do not wait” it will only get worse.

Go get your bait. Position yourself near that tinkling water and begin tossing small amounts of chum in that direction. The mixture should disperse thoroughly, sink slowly and create a fine oil slick on the water which attracts bait into the chummed area. When they are bunched up be ready and throw your net.

Many of our local tackle retailers carry cast nets, fish food, Jack Mackerel and Menhaden Oil and just about anything else, you need in the way of tackle, bait and riggings. Moreover, unlike larger discount or sports stores, if they do not have what you are looking for they will get it for you. They are also a great place to get current fishing reports, information and recommendations on tackle, or if you just want to talk fishing, someone is usually around to spin a yarn or two. Stop in; visit your local tackle dealer soon.

Let’s Go Fishing in Tampa Bay:

It’s not hard to find good fishing in the bay. There are over 200 species of fish in Tampa Bay which starts at the extreme north end down to past the Skyway Bridge. Just fish 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.

Here are some good starting points:

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 (Season’s Open until May 1st)

The Tampa Bay Snook bite’s been excellent. Greenbacks, Shrimp, Pinfish and artificial lures are working especially the topwater’s early in the AM. The closed season starts on May 1st and then it’s Catch and Release until September first.

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. As always large schools of mullet are good places to find redfish. They are either inside the school or behind it. 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.

Spotted Sea Trout

Some good catches on incoming or outgoing tides around deep water flats 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 around the bay and will only get better as the water warms and the Threadfins begin schooling. I’ve been seeing a few Cobias around the bay most are cruising markers or following large rays or manatees. Tarpon are showing up at the Skyway.

“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. Please contact me for more information or to book a trip call or email 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, Mackerel, Sharks, Cobia
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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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