Water temperatures are starting to drop a bit, and days are getting shorter by a minute or so. When the water temperature dips into the mid 70s, fish respond with authority. We are rapidly approaching a great time of year to be an angler in our area. King and Spanish mackerel are starting to show in good numbers and have been quite cooperative, and the redfish bite has been spectacular. Redfish are swarming the flats and are holding in nice schools. Multiple catches of slot reds have been reported from upper Tampa Bay to Ruskin. Large aggregations can be found with a bit of persistence and patience. Most of the fish being caught are keepers if desired. The limit is one per person per day, with the minimum length being 18 inches to a maximum of 27 inches with the tail pinched. Cut bait fished on the bottom proved deadly the past few outings. We tore our baits in half and put a small split shot to weight it slightly. Our smelly offerings outproduced the live bait that was swimming in the same area. It wasn't even close. The dead stuff definitely outperformed the live greenbacks. Obtaining live bait will become difficult after our first real cold front. Enjoy it now, because it will be radically different in just a few weeks. Pick a day with a big high tide and look for large groups of mullet. It's almost a guarantee that reds will be meandering in the middle of all the action, and they are usually eager for a free offering. Mangrove shorelines adjacent to oyster mounds are a favorite hangout for early fall reds. Kingfish are scrumptious in the smokehouse or on the grill. Twice a year we get the migration of the seasonal pelagic fishes. Easter and Thanksgiving are kind of a gauge of when it's "on." They are just starting to show up but should be here in droves in the next few weeks.
Dave Walker charters out of Tampa. Call (813) 310-6531 or visit fishontampabay.com/captains.aspx.