Oppressive heat and light winds, coupled with fairly predictable daily afternoon thunderstorms, usually causes anglers to head for the horizon early or rest a little bit longer and stay inshore. Both scenarios have been leading to reasonable catches of multiple species.
Inshore action has been solid for those desiring more sleep or some relief at the fuel pump.
Large snook are feeding right now. Giant fish like this are completely different than their more common and smaller siblings. The really big ones rarely jump, but they sometimes shake their head above the water line. The tenacious fighters can break lines and spirits.
Clusters of these mammoths are heading toward spawning areas to make baby snook. The big ones should be handled with care because they are responsible for most of the egg production.
Now that the water is a bit murky, it's possible to use a heavier leader. The snook's mouth and gill plates are especially abrasive and can shred most lines during a heated battle.
Mangrove snapper are cooperative right now. They are annihilating the new hatch of bait. The small threadfins and sardines that have flooded the flats are snapper candy for these structure-oriented fish.
Spanish mackerel are still in the area. They are not plentiful, but they are large. Mackerel in the 4 to 5 pound range, and larger, are not uncommon in Tampa Bay.
Going offshore has provided some solid action. Red snapper are swarming over wrecks and areas of hard bottom in 90 to 120 foot depths. Some have been caught as shallow as 70 feet.
Larger fish and greater quantities can be found on the Pipeline area. This area is a highway for red snapper and many other species. The mitigation areas are especially hot right now. Back-splintering grouper, both reds and gags, are in these areas as well.
Popular wrecks are holding amberjack. Typically, these areas are crowded with boats, but fuel seems to be limiting the number out there for now. Amberjack are an incredibly strong fish that sometimes overwhelm those who do not know what to expect.
Amberjack are open-water fish that sometimes sit suspended off the bottom. This actually is an advantage for anglers because there is less of an opportunity for the fish to beeline it to the structure to try to break the line. Drop a live blue runner to where the fish are in the water column and hang on.
Dave Walker charters out of Tampa and can be reached at (813) 310-6531 or www.snookfish.com or e-mail capt davewalker @verizon.net.