Florida Fishing Report: Florida Fishing Charters

Florida Fishing Report

Our Florida fishing report page offers up to date information on fishing in the Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Tarpon Springs, Orlando and Boca Grande area of Florida's West Coast. For more information on our Florida fishing charters and tarpon fishing charters, please click the link below

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Dave Koch prepares to release a giant tarpon taken while working migrating bait pods off the beach.

Fall Fronts Are Bitter Sweet

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A significant cold front passed through on Thanksgiving Day. The front sent the winds to 20 knots and temporarily dropped the water temperature 10 degrees. The cold fronts have not been consistent and that actually makes fishing more difficult.

As usual, many of our resident inshore species started moving to their winter haunts when the hours of daylight waned to the hours of darkness. However, it is the consistency of cooler air and water that squeezes the fish into even smaller areas where they can acclimate to the cool water and be subsequently patterned by the trained eye of a fishing guide or serious angler. Nearshore, these fronts are staple in sending migrating baitfish south and west for winter with their migratory predators following close behind them.

Inshore redfish and trout are the bread-n-butter species for flats guides during late fall and winter. Indian Summer days increase our chances at getting neo-tropical species such as snook and juvenile tarpon to respond to our offerings.

We had success jigging trout in the deeper grass flats the past few days, but we also had some success with live bait in the shallow pockets and cul-de-sacs that are more traditional for fishing this time of year. Once the weather becomes consistent, double digit catches of the trout will be typical this winter.

Redfish were more difficult to come by the past few days with the gusty north wind blowing all of the water off the flats making the best areas inaccessible and their rocky outcroppings high and dry. Reds are hearty fish that tolerate the cool water quite well. They minion limestone oyster bars that guard deep creek or river mouths or those that line marshy grass pockets out of the main tidal flow.


The winter negative tides are notorious for finding “tailing” reds moving onto grass flats that are adjacent to deeper water. At the start of flood tide, the fish are easily spotted as their tails are partially exposed above water while their heads are rooting in the grass for forage. Redfish practicing this behavior are favorite targets of our winter guests seeking sight-fishing opportunities.

Samantha Chilcote with a nice shallow water gag grouper. Way to go Sam!

Jack Quinlan and son, Jackson with a notable cobia. Cobia are migrating with the bait pods and too, can be found on the nearshore wrecks for a few more weeks.

A deeper probe into the backcountry will produce excellent catch-and-release snook fishing. Snook favor moving into the larger rivers and push many miles upstream and often into completely fresh water. In fact, one cast might produce a snook and the next, a largemouth bass. Night fishing in these winter snook oases is one of my favorites pastimes and I co-pioneered techniques to capture them a couple of decades ago. I am experimenting with a new location for me, one of the state’s largest rivers that has a “snooky” reputation and I can’t wait to see what I find there.

Decent flounder catches continue as a by-product while targeting redfish in the rocks. While I have not targeted them, I would expect the pompano fishing to be productive inside the passes south of Tampa Bay. Extended periods of warm weather would be needed for me to consider any serious attempt at a giant tarpon since the passing of this last front. I took shots at juvenile tarpon last Friday and went 0 for 2.

When the seas are reasonable, kingfish, Spanish mackerel, cobia and a few giant tarpon can be found off the beaches out to 15 miles offshore. Baitfish schools visible on the surface help to place you and your boat in the right depth, but savvy anglers know, it is the bait schools you mark on the bottom that deserve the most attention. Off Hernando and Citrus counties, the shallow water grouper fishing is happening in 8 to 23 feet, particularly when you can secure a live well full of scaled sardines. The twenty-foot contour and deeper lines off of Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties are producing well.

I am in the process of integrating some newer technology in the form of “micro blogging” using Twitter and Facebook onto the site. Our Twitter site address is www.twitter.com/GiantTarpon  and www.facebook.com/GiantTarpon (you must be logged into Facebook to view our page). Using text messaging, I will be updating current fishing reports live from the boat and will include live still shots and video (Facebook). I expect to have great feeds fully incorporated by the spring and encourage our readers to set up accounts now for this exciting roll out.

Screaming Drags and Tired Arms!

Robert McCue


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