Inshore fishing has been difficult for the past several days. Drastic weather changes and stout winds combined with seasonal fish migrations have even seasoned anglers scratching their heads.
The cold weather before Halloween threw us right into winter, dropping the water temperature in the bay by 15 degrees almost instantly. Cold-tolerant fish such as redfish, trout and grouper will still feed actively. Redfish are still milling around on the flats in the afternoon. Their numbers are starting to dwindle as deeper water is becoming more appealing to them. They will still crush a shrimp or greenback, but soft-plastic jigs will cover more area and catch the stragglers on the flats.
Residential canals have offered shelter from recent winds and are holding fish. A live shrimp with a split shot crimped on the line and a small live-bait hook is the standard rig for docks.
The grouper are moving in close since the gulf waters have cooled. Small ledges in 30 to 70 feet are holding nice gags. Most of the ledges and breaks have undercut areas where grouper can hide and go undetected by bottom machines.
Cut bait and live pinfish are producing good catches, weather permitting. A hooked grouper will gladly take you on a tour of its rocky home, so getting the fish out of the structure immediately is a must.
Kingfish were terrorizing the beaches, and while there still are a few around, depending on this weekend's expected cold front, it's anybody's guess as to how long they will stay put. A loose drag is a must. Around 3 pounds of line tension at the rod tip is a typical drag setting for tournament kingfish. They have thin skin and it will tear easily. Many kings will short-strike a bait so use a trailer hook or stinger. Spanish mackerel mixed with some bonito are still on the beaches. The clear water after a cold front is usually better fishing for Spanish and kings than murky water.
Dave Walker charters out of Tampa and can be reached at captdave firstname.lastname@example.org, snookfish.com or (813) 310-6531.