Fall is a great time to fish nearshore in Tampa Bay. The weather is excellent, and the fish are biting.
Nearshore Fishing in Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay is renowned for its nearshore fishing, and for a good reason. The diverse range of fish that call the Bay home means that there is always something biting, no matter what time of year it is. Tampa Bay has everything from the hard-fighting gag grouper to the delicious snapper.
And when the bite is a little slower, there are still plenty of opportunities to catch a big cobia or permit. So whether you’re a seasoned pro or just getting started, Tampa Bay has everything you need for a great day on the water. This is great news for fishermen, as plenty of fish will be caught! Some of the most popular fish to target this time of year include:
Amberjack is one of the most popular gamefish due to its incredible fight and delicious taste. They can be found in waters up to depths of 200 feet and often congregate around reefs and wrecks. Amberjack is not shy or picky, so you can make all the noise you want, and almost any lively baitfish will be readily accepted. Commonly used baitfish species include blue runners, pinfish, pigfish, grunts, cigar minnows, and sand perch.
Because amberjacks like to swim above the reef, it’s a good idea to use just enough lead to keep the bait in the middle of the water column. When amberjack gets excited, they will also come to the surface and explode on top-water plugs, jigs, spoons, and diving lures. Amberjack is a powerful fighter with great endurance. So if you’re looking for a challenging and delicious fish to target, look no further than the amberjack!
Black and Red Grouper
Red grouper can be found nearshore, usually in cooler waters. These fish in this zone are typically under six years old, but even adolescent red grouper can challenge anglers. Meanwhile, black grouper are spawning right now and can be found in coastal waters near structures. Juveniles can be found inshore, but adults are generally associated with rocky bottoms, reefs, and drop-off walls in over 60 feet deep waters.
The larger black groupers are usually found in greater depths and feed on fish and squid. When fishing for grouper, anglers can use lures, live bait, or dead bait. Some people prefer to cast jerk baits in shallow reef areas, while others believe the most effective way to catch grouper is to send a large live bait down to the bottom and lift it a crank or two. Ultimately, it’s up to the angler to decide what method to use.
King mackerel season is open year-round in federal and state waters (0-200 miles off the shore), allowing anglers to hook into these powerful fish. Kings can be found near shore around buoys, reefs, wrecks, and high-speed trolling areas, making them relatively easy to target. These predators feed on small fish and squid, making live baits such as pogies, herring, Spanish sardines, ballyhoo, and effective mullet choices.
Lures should be flashy sub-surface or large fish-like plugs that mimic the kings’ natural prey. Whether using live bait or lures, anglers will surely enjoy the fight these fish put up. King mackerel are highly prized by sports fishermen for their fighting ability and tasty flesh. So get out there and start reeling them in!
Fall is a beautiful time to get out and enjoy some nearshore fishing here in Tampa Bay. With the cooler water temperatures come migrating fish, which means there will be plenty of opportunities for a great catch! Get out there and book your trip today– happy fishing!