1: At Big Pier 60 in Clearwater, sheepshead are biting around the pilings along with some grunts and they’ve been the most consistent catch. A few speckled trout have also been caught and some small sharks, reports Big Pier 60 Bait & Tackle (727-462-6466).
Fish of the Week
Gag Grouper: Cooler weather has the gag grouper chewing offshore, nearshore and along the Tampa Bay shipping channel.
Strike Zone, 2, 4, 5, 7, Elsewhere
2: At Madeira Beach, nearshore the hogfish bite is very good around a depth of 40 to 50 feet. The gag grouper bite is also good starting at that depth out to 70 foot. A few scattered kingfish have been caught around the 50-foot mark, reports Capt. Dylan Hubbard of Hubbard’s Marina (727-393-1947).
3: At John's Pass, there’s a lot of sheepshead around structure in the pass. There’s still some snook, but they’re feeding more actively inside the back bays. Redfish are biting around the docks and along the bottom. The jetty and the beach are producing pompano, whiting and silver trout. Tripletail are steady on the buoys along the beach, reports Hubbard.
4: At Fort De Soto Park, a lot of sheepshead are around the marina, but the snapper are few. The snook have moved into the canals. On the flats, there’s a few trout and good numbers of redfish around Jackass Key and the flats near the campground. Sheepshead are also holding on the oyster bars on the flats. Pompano action is “on fire” at the Bay Pier. The Gulf Pier is good for sheepshead around the pilings, along with whiting and big jack crevalle. Bunces Pass is producing whiting, pompano and some black drum. Gag grouper are biting steady in the Egmont Channel and on structure in the bay, reports Capt. Claude Hinson at Tierra Verde Bait and Tackle (727-864-2108).
5: Around the Sunshine Skyway and lower Tampa Bay, the gag grouper bite remains solid throughout lower Tampa Bay. The Port Manatee reef, most of the rock piles and the edge of shipping channel are holding keeper size gags. Trolling large lipped plugs, curly tail jigs, and freelining pinfish are all producing. Kingfish and Spanish mackerel are showing up on the nearshore public reefs, reports Capt. John Gunter of Palmetto (863-838-5096). Good size sheepshead are biting around most structure and the bridges. Schools of redfish are roaming around the mouth of the Manatee River, reports Capt. Shawn Crawford of Florida Sport Fishing Outfitters (941-705-3160).
6: At Anna Maria, there’s decent numbers of trout in Anna Maria Sound, especially towards the north, where the flats drop off into the bay. Several schools of redfish are roaming the Seven Pines shoreline to Palma Sola Bay and south to Sarasota Bay. Tripletail are still holding on the buoys off the beach, reports Crawford. The Longboat Key bridge along with the Cortez and Manatee Ave. bridges are all holding good size sheepshead, reports Gunter.
7: At St. Petersburg, some redfish and most of the snook have moved into the residential canals and creek mouths. Sheepshead are also on the canal docks and just about any structure in the area. The redfish bite is also good on the flats from Pinellas Point through Weedon Island and north to the Fourth Street flats. Mangrove snapper and gag grouper are still chewing on the reefs in the bay and along the shipping channel, reports Larry Mastry at Mastry’s Tackle (727-896-8889). The Pass a Grille jetty is producing big pompano and black drum, reports Hinson.
8: In the north end of Tampa Bay, there’s plenty of sheepshead and some pompano biting around the Gandy Bridge. Whiting and a few snapper are also biting around the area bridges. The flats of the upper bay are producing better numbers of trout and redfish are everywhere. Most of the snook are moving into the canals and creeks. The shipping channel at the Weedon power plant is producing black sea bass, whiting and some silver trout. Some mackerel are still biting at the St. Pete Pier and the markers in the bay. Redfish are biting on the Picnic Island flats. The pier there is good for whiting and sheepshead, reports Gandy Bait & Tackle (813-839-5551).
♦ At Homosassa, the inshore redfish bite is good on shrimp under a cork and cut bait on the bottom. Speckled trout are biting around patches of rock grass and sheepshead are biting around any structure. Nearshore, the gag grouper bite is very good on the shallow rocks around 8 to 9 miles out on live pinfish and shallow diving plugs, reports Capt. William Toney of Homosassa Inshore Fishing Charters (352-621-9284).
♦ At Fort Pierce, offshore there’s some mahi and kingfish around a depth of 50 to 80 feet. There’s also scattered wahoo on the troll at the at the 80- to 200-foot mark. On the bottom, it’s mostly lane snapper, along with a few muttons, mangroves and triggerfish. At the inlet, whiting and croakers consistent in the surf, with the occasional pompano. Spanish mackerel and bluefish are biting from the jetty. More sheepshead and black drum are showing up in the inlet and also around the bridges. The snook bite is also picking up inside the inlet, reports Clint Walker at the Fishing Center of St. Lucie (772-465-7637).
This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Saltwater report: Gag grouper biting in Tampa Bay thanks to cooler weather