As a week of record warmth in the Tampa Bay region turned into a few frontal & windy days late in the week, several bites were still popping at the Sunshine Skyway Fishing Piers. Spanish mackerel were on an up-and-down biting pattern, with a few anglers taking full limits of fish and others fishing many hours for only a few fish. Larger pelagic species were starting to make an appearance as well. Several bonito were landed near the end of the South Pier early in the week and several king mackerel runs have been reported on both sides. Scaled sardines remain strong around both fishing piers for those seeking lively baitfish. Whiting and silver trout were reported on both sides, but the end of the North Pier was best. Sheepshead remain around in good numbers – both on the pilings and artificial reefs. Ladyfish and bluefish gave overnight anglers plenty of action and pompano are finally starting to show along the approach sections.
Great Spanish mackerel action was found by visitors fishing the peak windows of opportunity and choosing other species during off-bites. The start of outgoing tides seemed to be the best fishing period this past week, but both early-morning and late-afternoon anglers also found success. Those sticking just to peak periods seemed to get the most limits of fish. Gotcha lures, silver spoons and white nylon jigs were all great selections for active mackerel. Plenty of fish are now being taken by free-lining or float fishing live or cut strips of sardines on 1/0 or 2/0 long shank hooks. Forget the wire leaders in this game and tie the hook directly to monofilament or fluorocarbon leader material. Natural bait rods for Spanish mackerel can easily be ‘set’ rods while still casting artificial lures for more active fish. With spinning reel drags on a medium/light setting, many mackerel will hook themselves even better than an angler holding the rod.
There were enough larger pelagic sightings/and or landings to suggest that the Tampa Bay Estuary is on the brink of reliable bonito and kingfish bites. Several bonito were taken early in the week on the South Pier and several kingfish strikes were reported. At least one kingfish was seen greyhounding through the waves during the strike so the report seems accurate. Bonito schools passed through the pier spans and then quickly moved along. Although several fish were taken on artificial lures and live baits, chumming and chunking might have kept these fish around for a longer period of time. Look for both bites to improve in the upcoming weeks.
Pompano began to show along the approach sections of both fishing piers. Swim jigs with flies were the top lure option and several large fish were taken. Anglers were generally fishing both early and late in the day, but it seemed that any moderate tidal flow could attract the pompano. Avid anglers seemed to avoid the ripping current flows due to the difficult in consistently holding bottom. Jigs ranged from 3/8 oz. to 3/4 oz. based upon the strength of the tide and popular colors of both jigs & flies included pink, yellow, chartreuse and white.
Whiting and silver trout make a nice and consistent angling option during even windy days at this time of the year, and the past week saw many nice fish taken. The end of the North Pier is the best location for this bite – due mostly to the depth and proximity to the main shipping channel. There are many approaches that will take these fish – including simply plain tandem jig rigs on the artificial lure side. Perhaps the best combination is to slowly bounce larger multiple hook bait rigs tipped with strips of cut squid on the bottom. Look for hook sizes in the #2 and #4 size range. There are several Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp Bait Rigs in various patterns that perfectly fit the bill for this presentation.