The Tampa Bay region of Florida has some of the best fishing in the U.S. and knowing the terrain where these fish hide as well as what to use for bait can be the difference between doing some “fishing” and “catching”. Redfish, snook, and trout are some of the main sought after inshore species sought after when fishing in Tampa Bay and this article has some quick pointers that might help you increase your odds of landing one.
Like many offshore species, the ones mentioned above tend to hang around structure or objects that offer them good places to ambush prey or avoid predators. Some good examples of structure around Tampa Bay are oyster beds, bridges, docks & pilings, and mangroves. Being able to effectively locate or spot these structures is half the skill of fishing. The best anglers have a real eye or locating the kinds of terrain mentioned above and the more you practice through trial and error, the better you’ll become.
Homes typically line much of the inter coastal water ways of Tampa Bay and almost all of these homes contain boat docks. Residential boat docks (especially ones with lights on in the evening) usually yield all kinds of fish species. One obvious reason for this is the cover and hiding spots the actual dock offers. There are also many species of fish that feed on the algae and barnacles that grow on the pilings supporting these structures. Hoards of bait fish are attracted to the light fixtures many home owners install under their docks and predatory fish obviously hang out there to feed as well.
Oyster bed’s can be found all over when fishing in Tampa Bay. I have seen them just outside of Bay Pines Marina, Shell Island, Tarpon Key, and a variety of other places in the bay area. If you go to these area’s during low tide, you’ll see the beds actually protruding out of the water. If you’re going to be fishing along oyster beds the first thing you want to keep in mind that the oyster shells are very sharp and easy to get your rig hung up on. You want to make sure you keep your boat clear of running aground on them because they can cause your hull some serious damage and tear your skin up even worse if you’re wading and step on some. Floating your shrimp on a bobber is one good way to keep from getting hung up on an oyster bed.
Grass flats are another great place to do some fishing in Tampa Bay and there’s no shortage of them in this area. Weeden Island is a 3,700 acre nature preserve just to the south of Gandy Bridge surrounded by shallows and grass flats that offer prime time flats and kayak fishing. Ft. Desoto Park on the southern tip of the Pinellas County just before you go over the Skyway Bridge is another area you can find numerous grass flats that hold lots of fish. When you’re fishing in these areas you want to look for spots where patches of sand meet the grass lines. This is where trout and redfish wait to ambush bait that might swim out into the open areas that don’t offer them any cover. When I find a sand patch, I try and cast right in the middle of it and work my bait to the grass line where a fish is hopefully waiting. Since most grass flats are relatively shallow and are where schools of fish forage for food, these are also great places to sight fish (looking for movement in the water indicating a fish’s location). Sight fishing is a blast and one of the more rewarding methods of fishing.
Be sure to keep an eye out for shore line covered by taller mangrove bushes. Mangroves are a very common species to the Tampa Bay area and are plentiful around around Weeden Island, Ft. Desoto, and islands you’ll find inshore around Tampa Bay. The root structures of these mangrove bushes offer an estuary for fish species and are where bait fish go to hide from predators. They also offer shade and cooler waters to fish looking to get out of the sun and out of the open. Just be sure not to over cast your bait and get it caught in the bushes. Spending time trying to untangle your line takes the fun out of fishing.
So lets say you’re fishing in Tampa Bay and spot a redfish, which you decide to go after. The next thing you have to consider is what kind of bait you’re going to use. Since Tampa Bay, FL has such a wide assortment of species to fish for, a beginner might be a bit confused as to what kind of bait they should use. Well believe it or not, most baits are pretty universal and can be used to catch almost anything that swims. This area also has an abundance of live bait that you can either catch yourself or buy from most bait shops. Artificial bait also works well.
I like to have a couple poles with different rigs ready to go when i get to a spot. There’s no need to waist precious (and expensive) live bait if you can try something artificial first to see if they’re even home or interested. Shiny spoons of any color are great universal artificial bait that I tend to throw first to see if anyone’s home. If they bite is on ill switch to something live if I have it in hopes of a big fish. If you don’t have some live shrimp handy you can always switch to some local live bait you can catch yourself using sabiki rigs or cast nets such as pin fish, green backs, pilchards, finger size mullet and threadfins. Places I’ve had the most success catching bait on my own are around bridges, well lit residential docks, and channel markers. I wouldn’t advise trying to catch your own live shrimp as they are very seasonal inshore. You can buy live shrimp at just about any bait shop.
Other effective artificial baits include top water plugs, and light weight (1/8 – oz) jig heads. Top water plugs are a lot of fun and attract fish with built in rattles and water movement. Watching a big fish come up out of the water after a plug is really exciting and beautiful to watch. Plastic shad and grub tails are two of my favorite things to fit my light weight jig head with. weedless jigs are also available to help keep you from getting stuck in the grass flats. Hope you enjoyed the tips! You can find many more helpful articles like this one on my favorite fishing social network Tight Lines & God bless!