Tampa Bay Fishing Charters Report for May 2018
The water has warmed up and outside of the tropical system that moved north through the gulf, the weather has been great for prime fishing in the Tampa Bay area and another edition of the Tampa Bay Fishing Charters Report by Captain Mike Murphy of Fish This Inshore Charters.
Tarpon are making a presence in the Bay and the surrounding passes. Right now, the bite has been later in the afternoon and evening with the influence of strong outgoing tides these last couple weeks. Large schools of these fish can be seen off the beaches in Anna Maria and Egmont key, along with other schools rolling during prime feeds in the passes, bridges and inshore reefs. Live threadfins or greenbacks worked on a freeline or under a floating cork work well in the rolling schools and ahead of migrating schools in all these areas. Cut bait is working well under the bridges and in the passes. Cut up lots of baits to get the frenzy going. The wait may be long at times but once it starts, hold on. You may catch a few sharks and Spanish mackerel with your tarpon efforts, but it is a welcome sight during the slow times. Pass crabs are on the move now during the falling tide. Net several of these to really improve your chances of jumping one of these silver kings.
Trout bite has been solid throughout the area. Grass flats in the 3 – 5 foot range worked with jigs or twitch baits is the ticket to catching your limit of fish all over the Tampa Bay. Bait is prevalent on the markers and flats but don’t wear yourself out trying to catch it. If you’re having difficulty catching bait, just drift the grass flats and work the water for trout during those golden hour mornings and the bait will more than likely present itself in due time. Don’t waste the morning bite trying to catch bait. Several brands of plastic swim baits will work well in these areas. DOA and Z-man baits are a couple to keep you and the trout entertained for ours. Gold with red flake and new penny colors are my go to on most days. Take care in releasing these fish and keep handling them to a minimum. I use a de-hooker to alleviate any undo stress to these fish.
Snook are in full force right now, though they are out of season, and can be found in all the passes, beaches and some are holding well on the inshore reefs. Live greenbacks are the bait of choice and with the higher tides this time of year, you may need to really be accurate with your casts and get that bait in the gaps of the mangroves that are holding deeper water. I use 25# fluorocarbon leader with a 2/0 circle hook for best results. On the reefs, use the same leader and hook size but add a ¼ ounce split shot to get the bait down. Don’t be surprised when a healthy gag grouper or 16” mangrove snapper grabs you bait instead. This deeper water fishing is best when the tide movement is light. The key to skinny water snook is opposite of this. They will want a good moving tide, which is why the afternoon bite has been the best lately. These large outflow of water flushes out the baitfish into sight of these hungry predators.
Snapper are beginning to show up in numbers on the reefs and bridge pilings. Similar to the tarpon cut bait method, bring lots of dead baits to cut up to bring these tasty morsels to the surface for relentless action. Size limit is 10” in the bay but I don’t keep them under 14”. Anything smaller isn’t enough for a fish taco and releasing the smaller ones will allow them to reestablish the populations more quickly. A #1 or 1/0 J hook will work best for these fish and a 15# to 20# fluorocarbon leader will do the trick. Spanish mackerel will usually appear with the method of fishing but shy away from instinctively running to steel leaders. I use a 1/0 long shank J hook for these fish. Sometimes you can bump up your leader to 25# fluorocarbon.
Be on the look out for cobia running the reefs, buoys and markers. You will see them swim past or hang around your boat when anchored up on the reefs. I like to have a separate setup ready for these awesome fighting fish. These fish will readily take an eel imitation or large soft plastic swim bait but at times may be a bit more finicky. In this case, a live greenback or shrimp will do the trick as well. As you run the channels and past the towers in the bay, have someone keep a lookout to see if these guys are present on the surface.
There will be a larger presence of boats in the Bay as the season begins. Use caution and courtesy when navigating our waters. Be ever aware of the shallow water grass beds in the flats. Prop scars take years to recover and adds to loss of habitat for the very fish we are all trying to pursue. Be sure of your water depth before you try and get on plane.
By all means give Capt Mike a call to get the real-time weather and Tampa Fishing Charters Report! To contact Captain Mike you can call him at (813) 459-2521 or complete the short form on our Contact page.