We did it all today. We started off trolling for grouper, then battled a nice tarpon , ran from some giant bull sharks , caught a big flounder on a reef, then caught snook and reds in the back country. We went to one of my tournament spots where every red is magically between 25 and 27″ and put this 25″ red in the boat.
Tomorrow I will be up bright and early to fish for gag grouper out of John’s Pass in water between 30 and 55 feet deep.
I went out on the Hub Thursday and we had some really good grouper bites. I didn’t get a lot of good photos but here’s the report anyway. We set out of Johns Pass and started fishing about 18 miles out in 50′ of water. My second drop I landed this 24″ Gag.
After we moved about 500 feet away I landed a 31″ Gag. The next stop I landed a 26″ Gag. I had already limited out during the first 30 minutes and there were 10 1/2 hours to go. We went out to about 75′ of water and got into a bunch of small red grouper. Occasionally a keeper would make it to the boat and every once in a while we would get a keeper Gag. I think about 20 keeper grouper were caught with 10 people being on the boat. It was pretty rough out but everyone still had a good time.
Today I did a consultation trip with a client on their boat. We headed out to the shipping channel and trolled Mann’s Stretch 30′s and spoons on #3 planers. Nothing touched the Stretch all day today but we caught 3 grouper on the spoons and lost several more. One of the grouper was just 1/4″ too short and the rest were small. All of the bites occurred during the slack tide and lasted for about an hour nonstop.
After we get several could fronts we should see an increase in the size and number of Gags in Tampa Bay. The #3 planer with a 5″ paddle tail bait on a 1 ounce jig works really well during these months. Gag season conveniently closes November 1st just when the fishing starts getting good.
Today we took a 4 hour trip to Egmont Key. I decided I would put down some Stretch 30′s and troll the shipping channel around the Skyway Bridge area. I trolled down the side of the channel being mindful that the tide was going out so I presented the lure with the tide . I marked several areas that looked to be holding fish and kept the lure tight to the edge of the channel. I called out that we were coming over a really fishy looking spot and we hooked up with this 23″ Gag Grouper.
For extremely successful days of trolling for Gags, look for a slack tide. An hour before the tide changes and an hour after are usually when the Gags will come out of the rocks to forage for food.
We trolled all the way to Egmont Key and scooped up some pass crabs. I marked quite a few Tarpon but they were all around 20 foot deep and not eating crabs. We took a trip to Egmont the other day and had no success with the Tarpon either. There were 20 boats there and none of them hooked up. Now is the time of year when I start hitting the Bay Area bridges hard for Tarpon.