Summertime fishing in Tampa Bay is a hidden jewel when it comes to versatility. Some might tell you that fishing in the summer is less than stellar due to 90-degree water temperatures and humidity outside. In my 20 years of fishing, I have learned a lot from being on the water every day. One major factor is to find fish year-round. While in my younger days I used to stay on the shallows and stalk Reds, Trout and Snook, I soon figured out that Tampa Bay offers a whole new world in the bay. Once I discovered all the fishing Tampa Bay has to offer, it gave me more options to offer customers. It has changed the way I fish and the clients love the versatility.
Mangrove Snapper fishing in the past has been a mostly offshore targeted species, but as technology has changed and we as guides and anglers have become more educated, we found the bay can be as productive as the offshore waters. This has become possible with more up-to-date GPS and sonars. Another gamechanger has been the charts that can be purchased and inserted (SD card) into machines to give you ledges, rockpiles, sunk items and reliefs throughout Tampa Bay. This type of technology was never available growing up. The small black and white GPS/ sonars were just not capable, and only allowed you to get to a spot. Companies have since taken GPS units and turned them into state-of-the-art computers on your boat. I can honestly say that my Lowrance HDS 16 with side imaging sonar has changed the way I fish daily. Match this with a C map shaded relief chip and you will be able to see what’s under the water from you screen. It’s truly game changing technology!
Because of this technology we have brought different rigging and techniques that have been learned over the years that have helped us master the creatures of the bay. Mangrove Snapper fishing is something like no other. Unlike inshore fishing; we prefer to have slower-moving water most of the time. This enables us to get the fish off the bottom and even sometimes up to the surface. This is done be creating a chum slick with dead bait. We sometimes use smaller weighted hooks to get the bait down while free spooling or even just use a freelined bait. Tackle of choice for Mangrove Snapper is your typical flats rod (3000 Tsunami reel matched with a med 10 to 17 lb. St Croix Mojo) Leader typically will be smaller than flats leader. I like to downsize to #20 leader or sometimes even smaller. Mix this with proper technique of free spooling a bait and you will find a mess of Mangrove Snapper in the cooler.
Bay fishing will offer a mixed bag of fish and you can expect to have other species in the same spots that you find Mangrove Snapper. This will consist of Gag Grouper, Cobia, Tripletail, Sharks, Tarpon, Mackerel, and many others. This means that having a variety of reels and rods from light to heavy will benefit you. Being able to not tell the big one that got away story, but instead showing the big one that made it to the cooler. Making sure you are prepared for anything, and everything will be the difference maker when fishing Tampa Bay.
This also goes for bait. Having plenty of live and dead bait to create the chum slick will be essential in most situations. We typically catch bait with a cast net but if you can’t seem to find enough with a net, stop at your local bait shop and pick up some Sardines, Shrimp, and a chum bag. Simply hang this over the side of the boat and you will soon have fish eating right behind you. These seem to work just as well and can save you a bunch of time wasting trying to find bait, however fresh caught bait is always the best!
These are just some of the great tips to get out and do some bay fishing in Tampa Bay but there is nothing better than some hands-on training. If you would like to get out on the water for a fishing charter, I would be glad to take you out on and show you some tricks and techniques firsthand. If you are interested in a fishing charter, you can reach us at:
Capt Jason Prieto