Tampa Bay Fishing

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Inshore Species

Tarpon

Other Names:  Megalops
Species Information

Tampa Bay Tarpon Fishing

Tarpon fishing in Tampa Bay is regarded as the best in the world.  Tarpon is the ultimate sport fish in the world!  Tarpon have tremendous stamina, they are extremely strong, they are very acrobatic leaping 15ft into the air, and they grow to over 200 pounds.  It’s for this reason they are such a sought after trophy.  Anglers come from around the world come to fish for tarpon in Florida.  Tampa Bay is largest estuary in the state and receives the largest migration of tarpon.  Anna Maria Island sits on the southern tip of Tampa Bay and is considered the tarpon capital of the world.  Tarpon migrate in by schools of thousands.  Anna Maria will have schools of tarpon at times that seems to stretch for miles. Captain Matt is most known in the fishing community for skills at tarpon fishing; it is his area of specialty. For this reason the captain’s home base in on the island of Anna Maria.  Tarpon can be caught in the area March through October.  During the months of May, June, and July tarpon fishing is at it’s prime.  This is peak migration and when the captain primarily switches over to exclusively tarpon fishing.  Most fish average 70 to 130 pounds the large ones can reach 250 pounds.  There have been some unofficial world record tarpon weighing 300 pounds, landed in Tampa bay, one of which was caught aboard Captain Matt’s boat.  Captain Matt fishes for tarpon with heavy tackle spinning rods loaded with 65-pound test.  Sometimes he steps up to 100-pound test when the tarpon action in really fast and his customer are hooking up two to three tarpon at a time.  The captain’s favorite bait for tarpon is threadfin shad, large greenbacks, small crabs, and sometimes dead bait.  He loves tarpon fishing more than anything he targets on the water.  He takes pride in having the capabilities to teach others how to fish for tarpon in Tampa Bay.

Snook 

Other Names:  Centropomus undecimalis
Species Information

Tampa Bay Snook Fishing

Snook fishing in Tampa Bay on the shallow flat is probably some of the most exciting fishing in the world!  Snook are found throughout the shallow flat in the bay most of the year.  During the cooler months they seek the warmer water around boat basins, rivers and deeper backwater springs.  They are crafty, explosive, high leaping speed demons that pull hard and for this reason they are probably one of the bay area’s most popular species for local fisherman and Tampa fishing charters alike. They are one of Captain Matt’s favorites and areas of specialty.  The captain targets snook with and light tackle, live bait, and fly rods.  He generally uses 15 pound class spinning tackle and 9 weight fly rods to catch snook.  His favorite bait is by far live fresh greenback (pilchard), which he cast nets each and every morning before he meets his customers.  Snook are highly regarded sport fish so limitation is very tight one per person 28 to 32 inches.  They are pretty good to eat, but it is best to let most go.  Captain Matt’s snook charters general average between 30 and 50 a day.  On really good days his client may catch 60 or 70 in an outing.  One of his very best days the captain has caught over a 100 in a trip on live bait and as many as 40 on a fly rod.  Most snook run from 20 to 30 inches long.  Trophies in this day and age are 36 inches or better.  Capt Matt’s largest snook was 44 inches and near 30 pounds.  Captain Matt loves to teach is customer how to catch snook in Tampa Bay.

Red Drum – Redfish

Other Names:  Sciaenops Ocellatus
Species Information

Tampa Bay Redfish Fishing

Fishing in Tampa Bay for redfish is one of local angler’s favorite past times on the flat.  The redfish is one of the ultimate flats fish, available almost year round.  They are targeted in very shallow water from 2 to 5 ft sometimes even shallower.  Many times they are caught by site fishing large schools that roam the flats.  When the water temperatures drop in the winter they can also be caught around deeper docks and structures adjacent to the flats in deeper water from 6 to 10ft.  Most of the reds in the bay area range from 15 to 34 inches.  Many times they run in schools of similar size.  It makes for a lot of fun and tired arms when Captain Matt chums in a school of bull reds on the flats.  Sometimes the action is so fast everyone in the boat is hooked up on fish ranging from 30 to 34 inches. Redfish are one of Florida’s favorite sport fish for this reason the restrictions are tight one per person 18 to 27 inches.   They are good to eat and finding a keeper is generally pretty easy.   Captain Matt’s favorite bait is live greenbacks, occasionally he uses pinfish or cut dead bait.  In the winter if the water is cold shrimp is the bait of choice.  Anglers also catch them on artificial jigs and plugs.  Redfish are a staple for Tampa fishing charters.  Captain Matt really enjoys teaching his customer how to catch redfish on light tackle.

Speckled Trout

Other Names:  Cynoscion nebulosus
Species Information

Tampa Bay Trout Fishing

Fishing for trout in Tampa Bay is without a question a favorite among the locals and people that travel to the area to fish.  Trout are very prolific making them one of the most abundant sport fish in Tampa Bay.  Also known as the Speckled Sea trout, they can be caught throughout the entire bay and along area beaches.  They are available to angler year round, are great eat, and fairly easy to catch.  It for this reason they are so popular.  Trout can be caught in the shallow flats throughout the year and during the colder months can be found in water as deep as 15 ft in the intercostals and along area beaches.   Since they are so abundant they can make for incredibly fast action, kids love them for that reason.  Adults also love them because they are good to eat and you can keep four per person.  Most trout average about 14 to 22 inches and keepers must be between 15 and 20 inches one per person can be over 20 inches.  Captain Matt considers any trout over 26 inches to be a trophy.  His largest trout ever was a little over 30 inches and near 10 pounds.  Captain Matt prefers to fish for trout with live greenbacks and occasionally when the water temperature cools down enough in the winter he will switch to shrimp for the best action.  Many people who fish for trout also do so with jigs and plugs, which can be very productive at times.  Capt Matt uses light tackle equipment, the same gear he uses for snook and redfish to catch trout.  The captain really enjoys trout fishing, especially if the giant ones are feeding.  He loves showing his clients how to fish for trout in Tampa bay.

Sheepshead

Other Names:  Archosargus probatocephalus
Species Information

Tampa Bay Sheepshead Fishing

Fishing for sheepshead in Tampa Bay can be very good especially during the cold days during the winter months.  Late January through February is when they spawn and the action is the best, although they can be caught year round.  They are particularly known for being a great fish to eat. They are generally found around bay area structures, bridges, boat docks, and offshore on near shore reefs.  They are crustation eaters and prefer to eat shrimp, crabs, and barnacles.   They are very challenging to hook, but very willing to bite which makes fishing them a lot of fun!  Just be prepared to bait a lot of hooks.  Most sheepshead range from about 1 to 5 pounds, large ones can be 10 pounds and on rare occasion larger.  Captain Matt uses light tackle with very small hooks when fishing for sheepshead.  Sometimes he targets them in the winter and sometimes they are just a welcomed bonus while targeting other species.  They are tricky biters, but anyone can get the hang of hooking them after a few minutes of practice. Captain Matt is very patient with his fisherman and loves to teach them how to catch sheepshead in Tampa Bay.

Black Drum

Other Names:  Pogonias cromis
Species Information

Tampa Bay Black Drum Fishing

Fishing for black drum in Tampa Bay can be very exciting.  The black drum of Tampa Bay can be caught year round and range from 3 to 90 pounds.  The smaller ones are very good to eat and actually the only ones that we are allowed to keep.  The size limit, 14 to 24 inches, is good because the large ones get a chance to spawn.  Captain Matt does most of his black drum fishing in the winter months when they to tend to be easier to catch and more concentrated.  Most of Captain Matt’s black drums are caught on 15-pound light tackle.  He targets the smaller keepers around the dock with live shrimp.   Occasionally he also runs across large schools of giant breading fish from 30 to 60 pounds.  These fish are in shallow water making site fishing with shrimp and crabs as well as jigs very effective.  They too can be caught on relatively light tackle when roaming the open flats where they have nothing to tangle the angler’s line.  Giant black drum can also be caught around bay area bridges on larger crushed open blue crabs at night.  Some of these fish can approach 100 pounds and heavy 100-pound tackle is necessary to pull them away from the bridge.   Captain Matt really enjoys teaching his customers how to catch black drum in Tampa Bay.

Gulf Flounder

Other Names:  Paralichthys albigutta
Species Information

Tampa Bay Flounder Fishing

Tampa Bay is not particularly known for its superb flounder fishing, however it can be good at times.  Flounder can be caught in the bay throughout the year.  Most of the year Captain Matt considers flounder just to be a bonus fish and are caught when targeting other species.  They are always a welcomed catch because they are great to eat.  During the winter months the flounder fishing can be quite good near offshore wrecks.  When the water-cools down the action is fast Captain Matt will take the time to fish some of his offshore flounder locations as part of his offshore charter if his clients are looking for extra fillets.  When the bit is good his charters can catch 20 or so in a few hours averaging 13 to 20 inches with a few larger ones.  Captain Matt’s largest flounder is 28 inches.  Although they do not grow to a giant size they are one of the best fish to eat in the ocean.  The best lures in Tampa Bay for flounder are small weighted shrimp and greenbacks.  Some people also catch them on jigs.  The captain likes teaching his fisherman how to fish for flounder in Tampa Bay using light tackle.

Pompano

Other Names: Trachinotus carolinus
Species Information

Tampa Bay Pompano Fishing

Pompano are the small subspecies of permit and fishing for pompano in Tampa Bay can also be a lot of fun!  Though not as large topping out around 6 pounds they fight hard, are exciting to target and much like permit are amazing to eat.  Captain Matt’s favorite bait for pompano is heavy yellow jigs and flies.  At times he also uses weighted live shrimp.  Most of the pompano are caught inshore on the grass flats and along bay area beaches during the cooler months.  Sometimes there are small permit mixed in with them.  In the summer they can also be caught around bridge pilings.  Both species are some of the most beautiful that swim in the ocean.

Offshore Species

Kingfish

Other Names: Scomberomorus cavalla
Species Information

Tampa Bay Kingfish Fishing

The fishing in Tampa for kingfish is really good in the fall and spring.  That is the two times of year when the water temperate is in the mid 70s and the kingfish migration is passing the offshore area out of the bay area.  In the spring the kingfish migrate from south to north and then in the fall they come by again from the north heading south for the winter.  They are a true migratory pelagic fish much like migrating birds.  Kingfish are really exciting fish and one off Captain Matt’s offshore charters favorite species to target.  Kingfish are one of the fastest fish in the ocean, said to be able so to swim nearly 40 miles per hour.  The Captain’s favorite way to fish them is with live bait and live chum.  The captain literally chums them into a frenzy and when they are really biting is can be as fast the angler can cast their bait in the water.  Most Kingfish average 8 to 30 pounds; larger trophy fish are 35 to 40 pounds.  Tournament winning kings usually run over 40 pounds in the Tampa Bay area.  Most of the fish migrate from the beach to 30 miles offshore; some of the larger ones will actually run up in the mouth of the bay.  Kingfish are good to eat fresh as long as the meat is cooled quickly, like most pelagic fish.  It also is very popular in Florida for making smoke fish spreads.  Captain Matt personally really enjoys fishing for kingfish and it is one of his customer offshore favorites.  He likes teaching his anglers how to fish for Kingfish in Tampa.

Gag Grouper

Other Names: Mycteroperca microlepis
Species Information

Tampa Bay Gag Grouper

The fishing for gag grouper in Tampa Bay is wide spread and can be enjoyed by anglers inshore, near shore, and far offshore throughout the year.  Gag grouper are great to eat and very prolific.  They can be caught on many of the bay area structures and in large numbers offshore along hard bottom, ledges, sunken wrecks, and artificial reefs.  They average from 4 to 20 pounds and have occasionally been caught as large as 60 pounds.  The gulf limit is 22 inches and four fish per person.  They have very high quality of meat making them a favorite among Captain Matt’s offshore fishing charters.  Captain Matt generally uses 65-pound spinning tackle to catch them, but when the big ones are in the wrecks sometimes he steps it up to 100-pound tackle.  His favorite baits are live greenbacks and pinfish.  Dead threadfins and cut ladyfish are also used for some of the larger ones.   Captain Matt does the majority of his gag grouper fishing offshore, but occasionally he does target them in the bay especially in the cooler months when more gag grouper move up into the bay from offshore.   Trolling for grouper in the bay can also be quite effective with large lures and diving planners.  Gag grouper are a favorite for Captain Matt’s deep-sea charters.  He really enjoys helping people learn how to fish for gag grouper in Tampa Bay.

Red Grouper

Other Names: Epinephelus morio
Species Information

Tampa Red Grouper Fishing

Fishing in Tampa Bay for red grouper is very popular and a lot of fun.  The species is very prolific and very easy to locate.  Much like their cousins the gag grouper they tend hang around wrecks, ledges and hard bottom offshore.  They are more of a offshore grouper, most are caught in deeper water six miles plus offshore in 40 ft or deeper.  A few do come in the bay a little shallow, but they are generally the smaller ones.   They are exceptionally good to eat and must me 20 inches to keep.  The average red grouper is around 16 to 23 inches, but large ones and run over 30 inches and are 15 or 20 pounds.  Captain Matt generally uses 65-pound class spinning tackle for them and his favorite baits are pinfish, greenbacks, threadfins, and squid.  His charters really enjoy them because when they are biting good they are very easy to catch and they put up a good fight, which makes it fun for all anglers of all skill levels.  Red grouper are generally a lot of the grouper you would buy when you go to the restaurant so there is no doubt they are great to eat!  Captain Matt always has a great time showing his customers the art of how to catch red grouper.

Goliath Grouper

Other Names: Epinephelus itajara
Fishing charters Anna Maria island
Species Information

Tampa Bay Goliath Grouper Fishing

Fishing in Tampa Bay for goliath grouper can be the thrill of a lifetime for any angler strong enough to battle with one.  Whether you a seasoned angler or a first time fisherman the memories of battling with one of the bay area largest fish will last a lifetime.  It such a rush when the angler gets his first glimpse of the giant he is battling and when the grouper is finally boat side most fisherman are in total aw.  Goliath grouper the name says it all.  They average from 100 to 400 pounds and Captain Matt claims he thinks he has even caught them a little larger.  Surprising they are very easy to find and hook, the real challenge lays in pulling hard enough to get them out of the tangles they inhabit.  Captain Matt uses whole tunny and mackerel for bait along with 200-pound test, 400-pound leader, a 13/0 hook on a tuna rod.  Even with tackle that heavy they can still break the line.  Sometimes the captain actually uses the boat motor to pull the fish off the reef like towing a water skier.  Then the fisherman takes over to battle the fish to the boat after the fish is in open water.  Goliath grouper are protected and must be released, which is why they are so plentiful.  They are actually considered a nuisance to many fishermen these days because they eat a lot of the smaller grouper and snapper species including many of the ones on the fisherman’s hook.  Captain Matt loves to share the thrill of landing these monster fish and teaching his customers how to fish for goliath grouper.  The goliath grouper is a true sea monster and trophy for any fisherman.

Mangrove Snapper

Other Names: Lutjanus griseus
Species Information

Tampa Bay Mangrove Snapper Fishing

The fishing for snapper in Tampa Bay and the surrounding offshore water is very good.  Mangrove snapper are popular with all anglers in the bay area because they are very plentiful, challenging, and great eat.  Mangrove snapper offshore is a year round event.  They can also be really plentiful in the bay in the hotter months especially July and August.  Snapper are generally targeted with light tackle and light line. They can be particularly leader shy and hook shy.  It is for that reason Captain Matt likes to use light leader small size 1 and 2 hooks.  Shrimp and especially small greenbacks are their choice bait.  Sometimes the captain can chum to the surface where his anglers can actually watch them eat there bait off the back of the boat.  Many times he uses light sinks so his fisherman can catch them off the bottom.  Mangrove snapper generally range from 10 to 25 inches.  The captain doesn’t like to keep them until they are about 14 inches or so.  They are tremendously good to eat and one of the best fish the bay area has to offer as far as table fair.  It a good thing they are very plentiful because they can be quite sneaky bait stealers and have a real knack at getting off the hook making them a tricky to fish to catch.  The challenge they present make a lot of fun to fish for especially when many times you get a bit every time you drop bait on the school.  Captain Matt love teaching his customers how to fish for Mangrove snapper.  After few minutes and a little practice anyone can have fun catching the spunky fighters.

Permit

Other Names: Trachinotus falcatus
Species Information

Tampa Bay Permit Fishing

Permit fishing in Tampa Bay is one of the area’s best-kept fishing secrets.  Few people know that Tampa Bay is one of the world’s best permit fisheries.  Most of the fish are caught by site fishing over offshore reefs on flat calm days.  Permit gather in schools sometimes by the thousands.  The best way to find them is to head to a artificial reef or wreck and look for their long black fins sticking out of the water.  Sometimes they ride so high in the water there eye will actually stick out of the water.  It is quite a site to see a school of giant permit cursing by the boat numbering in the hundreds and sometime the thousands.  The chances of a real trophy are very good as well.  Captain Matt has had charters catch multiple trophies permit in the 30 to 40 pound class on some of the better days.  One day in particular his boat landed 32 permit, half of which were on fly rods, a feat that could not be replicated many places.  Captain Matt uses light tackle 15 pound class tackle to permit fish.  His favorite bait is live crabs; though he has caught them on shrimp, jigs, and flies.

Cobia

Other Names: Rachycentron canadum
Species Information

Tampa Bay Cobia Fishing

Cobia fishing in Tampa Bay can be a lot of fun and always a nice added bonus to a day’s catch.  Cobia have a very large range they can be caught from way up in the bay on shallow flats, around structure, even up the rivers, and as far out offshore as a 100 miles or more.  They can be caught year round and can vary in size from 10 to 130 pounds.  Most average about 15 to 40 pounds with really nice ones running about 50 to 70 pounds.  They are very fun to catch because they fight hard and even jump at times.  They are considered excellent eating.  Captain Matt’s favorite way to fish for cobia is sight fishing the shallow flats and beaches watching for fish cursing by.  Many times the cobia can be found swimming behind large rays.  The captain generally use light tackle 15-pound test when sight fishing for cobia.  At times when the cobia are offshore or in the bay hanging around structure Captain Matt likes to step his gear up to 65-pound heavy spinning tackle.  Cobia’s favorite baits are crabs, pinfish, and greenbacks.  They are very willing to eat artificial plugs and jigs as well.  Captain Matt finds them exceptional fun for his customers and likes to take the opportunity whenever it presents itself to teach is anglers how to fish for cobia.

False Albacore

Other Names: Euthynnus alletteratus
Species Information

Tampa Bay False Albacore Fishing

Fishing for false albacore or little tunny in Tampa Bay can be awesome!  They are known for their stamina and strength and are thought to be one of the hardest fighting fish in the world pound for pound.  Captain Matt targets most of his false albacore offshore over reefs.  He generally chums them to the surface sending them into a feeding frenzy.  They can also be caught up in the bay and along bay area beaches throughout the year from time to time when roaming in large schools feeding on glass minnows.  They are fun on light tackle and a favorite of Captain Matt’s fly fisherman.  Most of them average in the 7 to 15 pound range, but the captain has had clients catch them as large as 20 pounds.  Little tunny are not known to be great to eat, but the captain feels they are tasty when prepared as a medium cooked steak.   Good to eat or not they are really fun to catch and are a nice bonus when targeting other species.  They are very bloody and make great shark and goliath grouper bait.  Captain Matt especially enjoys teaching his customers how to fly fish for false albacore.

Sharks

Other Names: Selachimorpha
Species Information

Tampa Bay Shark Fishing

The bay area waters are some of the most shark infested waters in the world and fishing for sharks in Tampa Bay is also some of the best in the world. Hammerhead, bull, tiger, blacktip, and sand sharks just to name a few that call the area home.  Sharking fishing can be done year round, but they tend to be a little more aggressive in the warmer months.  Heavy rods, heavy line, wire leader with a heavy circle hook is the standard tackle.  Capt Matt’s favorite bait is a bloody false albacore or Spanish mackerel.  Barracuda are great baits as well, but really any bloody fish will work sharks are opportunist and can rarely turn down a chunk of bloody fish.  Shark fishing can be done in the bay, off the beaches, or offshore.  Some the sharks can get pretty large the captain has hooked hammerheads as large as 12 to 14 ft.  He has seen larger ones while tarpon fishing, over 16 ft and over 1,000 pounds.  Not to worry though if you are swimming on our beaches the water is very clear and swimming in the shallow waters is safe.  Sharks are intelligent creatures that naturally prey on large fish, so this is what they are searching for when feeding.  Tarpon are a favorite of large sharks in the summer time captain Matt has had many customer loose trophy tarpon to the sharks over of the years.  Shark fishing can be really exciting, they fight hard and some even jump.  The captain loves to teach fisherman how to shark fish in Tampa Bay.

Spanish Mackerel

Other Names: Scomberomorus maculatus
Species Information

Tampa Bay Spanish Mackerel Fishing

The Spanish Mackerel fishing in Tampa Bay can be unbelievable at times.  Much like their larger cousin the kingfish they are a pelagic migratory fish.  Unlike the kingfish though then can be caught year round because some schools seem to never leave the bay area.  Spanish mackerel average about 14 to 24 inches, occasionally a few as large as 28 and 30 inches can be caught.  Mackerel fishing can be a lot of fun for fishermen that need constant action, which makes them a good target for kids. Sometimes they are biting so fast the captain has trouble keeping up with taking them off the hook for his customers.  They are easy to hook they hit so hard sometimes they almost hook themselves and when the schools are really thick you literally can’t keep you bait in the water they hit it so fast.  They pull hard for there size and run very fast.  Captain Matt fishes them with live greenbacks, a small hook, and a wire leader on light tackle.  They have very sharp teeth so be aware when taking them off the hook.  Some people think Spanish Mackerel are wonderful to eat others really don’t like them at all so they are not for everyone as far as eating.  Personally Captain Matt likes to eat Spanish Mackerel. He really enjoy teach his fisherman how to fish for mackerel in Tampa bay.

Amberjack

Other Names: Seriola dumerili
Species Information

Tampa Amberjack Fishing

Amberjack are a favorite among Tampa Bay fishing charters.  The greater amberjack is the larger of the two species.  They are commonly found in the offshore waters of Tampa Bay 15 to 40 miles out.  They are generally caught on live bait around wrecks in 50 to 100 feet of water.  Amberjacks are known for their tremendous ability to pull and are a real struggle even on a 100-pound tackle.  Captain Matt generally uses 65-pound spinning tackle when fishing for them and live greenbacks, pinfish or threadfin shad to catch them.  They roam in large schools ranging from 30 to 60 pounds with the largest ones reaching over 100 pounds.  Amberjack are large, powerful and feed together so when they bite the action can be explosive.  Amber jacks are thought to be good to eat by some and only fair by others.

Lesser Amberjack are there smaller cousin and run a lot small averaging 14 to 24 inches.  They are generally caught closer inshore from 5 to 20 miles out.  They are fun to catch on light tackle and are considered very good to eat.  The offshore waters of Tampa Bay have very good amberjack fishing throughout the year.  The greater amberjacks bite better in the cooler months and the lesser bite better in the warmer months, but both species can be caught year round.

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