Inshore- The snook bite in the early mornings has been hot lately, according to Jeb Grant, aka ‘Smokey’, our first mate aboard our 5-hour half days. He’s been showing up early to work to soak a hand line for snook under the dock. We use 60lb monofilament and a 7oz circle hook with a live pinfish and let them swim freely under the dock and around the pilings; the snook have been gulping them up within minutes when feeding. The hand line gives you more control and less stretch since the bend of the rod allows the snook lots of room to break you off. The hand line doesn’t and it allows us to quickly return the fish without letting him injure himself on the pilings or get overtired. However, we don’t recommend this to first timers; it can be dangerous. If not properly executed you could end up with torn of fingers or severely cut palms.
The tarpon are still being spotted at night all the way till morning. Trout are active around the dock lights and on the deeper water grass flats. The small white bait is plentiful inside the bays and in the passes. It should be getting bigger and better soon and these are what most inshore species are hitting on most often. The mangroves under John’s Pass Bridge are very excited about these bait balls moving through and have been feeding voraciously.
Near shore- The snapper near shore have been biting well when the weather cooperates. Lately the tight gradient of high pressure around our area has been making morning and afternoon weather unpredictable and a bit explosive. These storms play havoc with the barometer and have been making the bite near shore tough and the rides uncomfortable. We are looking forward to a break after this weekend is over.
The grouper have been decent on the flat hard bottom when we can get out there to them and we should do well in the deeper near shore waters where the storms don’t have quite the same effect as they do in the shallower waters. Sharks are plentiful this time of year and are being seen and caught in the back bays, on the beaches, in the passes, and often near shore. On a recent shark trip we caught tons of decent sharks but even the four- and five-foot sharks are being swallowed whole by monster goliath grouper!
Offshore- Gag grouper are biting well in the deep offshore waters, but seem to be few and far between, and it doesn’t help to have guests using light tackle loosing monster gags. As soon as the first grouper gets into the rocks he starts his grunting and the bite is OVER for the entire boat. Every additional grouper that gets into the rocks exponentially increases the chances for the bite to shut down entirely. This is what makes grouper fishing from a party boat so frustrating for guests, and especially for the captains since we know the fish are there and were even hooking them but guests are losing them to the bottom.
Snapper are also biting well and they are reaching the peak of their spawning season. The vermillion snapper are the biggest they can be this time of year. The warmer waters have brought more numbers of yellowtail snapper to our area and were getting some big ones. We even caught a yellow eye snapper on a recent 39-hour trip at Hubbard’s Marina.
Captain Jack’s Dolphin Corner
We have a fourth baby dolphin calling Boca Ceiga home. This recent arrival was born within the past five days and still has very pronounced fetal folds. You can see baby dolphin photos on our Facebook page since were spotting them often, thanks to there being four of them locally now.
Snorkeling has been awesome around Egmont Key lately with water visibility reaching up to 15 feet down at its best and as low as 10 feet when it gets bad on the outgoing tides. This clear water is great to see; since we have had lots of rain lately we expected the water to turn brown quickly around the mouth of Tampa Bay, but it has held off, thankfully, and looks like it will remain that way, at least for a few days. The West winds help keep it pinned inside the bay.
The local ospreys have been aggressively feeding lately and have been spotted diving at high speeds to nail unsuspecting fish, small birds, and even small land animals, like rats. We are seeing a spike in the numbers of local osprey which is a great sign that our local sea birds are flourishing around Hubbard’s Marina.
We are still seeing manatees often around Egmont Key, on the beaches and even inside the back bays around Hubbard’s Marina. The baby manatee around Boca Ceiga Bay is spotted occasionally, but it’s much easier to spot them around Egmont Key in the clearer waters. The dirty back bay water has manatees, but since they come up for air only every 5-10 minutes and stick only their noses out they are hard to spot. Egmont Key’s beautiful water allows you to spot them even when deep under the water.
Tarpon schools can be spotted around Egmont Key and John’s Pass along the clearer water sandbars or shallow areas. They flood out of the pass and bay during outgoing tides and rush back in on the incoming tides. Many Egmont Key ferry guests have enjoyed the view watching anglers trying to wrestle these monster fish up to their respective boats.
Baby laughing gulls are all over the local area, but most densely populated on Egmont Key island around the lighthouse and backside of the island.
Turtle nesting is reaching its peak at Egmont Key with nests littering the beach landscape. As long as you avoid the small roped off area all is well.