Saltwater fishing: Speckled trout are biting big in the cooler weather

Cooler weather has turned on the speckled trout bite around Tampa Bay and elsewhere. Good catches of trout with some “gator” size fish are being reported.

1. At Big Pier 60 in Clearwater, when it’s not too windy, the Spanish mackerel bite is good in the morning and fair through the day. The water temperature is averaging 73 degrees. The trout bite at night is still good on live shrimp, reports Big Pier 60 Bait & Tackle (727-462-6466).

2. At Madeira Beach, “The gag grouper bite near shore in 20-50 feet of water is insane. The hogfish bite is also really good,” reports Dylan Hubbard of Hubbard’s Marina (727-393-1947). Deeper offshore, the tuna bite is picking up. Big flounder are hitting on sand bottom around the artificial reefs. The kingfish are starting to get sporadic.

3. At John’s Pass, sheepshead fishing is good around the bridge pilings and area docks. There’s also some big black drum. There’s still Spanish mackerel off the beach and pompano in the morning around the jetty. Trout fishing is good on the flats inside the pass. “This is the time of year to find some ‘gator’ size fish,” reports Hubbard.

4. At Fort DeSoto Park, “Snook fishing around the area flats is fantastic.” There’s no real big fish, but a bunch of fish in the 20- to 26-inch range. Lot’s of trout are being caught, but most are smaller fish in the 13- to 16-inch range with a few big fish here and there. The flounder bite around the park is pretty good with fish up to 15 inches being caught. There’s still Spanish mackerel and some kings off the beach and at the piers, reports Capt. Claude Hinson, of the Bait Bucket (727-864-2108).

5. Around the Sunshine Skyway and lower Tampa Bay, trout fishing is excellent around Terra Ceia and Joe Bay. Fishing along ledges near the flats is best. There’s lots of flounder around the reefs in lower Tampa Bay and the Skyway area. Gag grouper are also moving in thick. Anglers both trolling and bottom fishing are catching keeper sized gags on the edges of the shipping channel, reports Capt. Shawn Crawford of Florida Sport Fishing Outfitters of Bradenton (941-705-3160, www.captainshawn.com).

6. At Anna Maria, “Trout action is excellent right now. The hard part is weeding through the smaller fish to get a good keeper-size fish,” reports Crawford. There’s lots of fish in the 14- to 18-inch range and the big “gator” trout are mixed in. There’s plenty of snook being caught as well. “We had a nice snook pushing 37 inches in Sarasota Bay, while trout fishing the middle of a flat this week,” Crawford said. Outside, there’s still Spanish mackerel on the beach and reports of a school of kingfish still on the way.

7. At St. Petersburg, there’s lots of trout around Pinellas Point and the Fourth Street area. The D.O.A. CAL 5.5 inch Jerk Bait and CAL grub tails are producing a good bite. There’s also a lot of Spanish mackerel and bluefish near the shipping channel in that area, reports Capt. Ray Markham of Backwater Promotions (941-723-2655).

8. In the north end of Tampa Bay, “Trout fishing is solid right now. Anywhere there is fry bait, you’ll catch trout,” reports Capt. Jake Whitfield Florida Outdoor Adventures (813-997-5980). The deeper edges of the flats on the low tides and the potholes on high tide are producing the best bite. Greenbacks, MirrOlure Lil Johns, and D.O.A. CAL Shad Tails are all producing nice trout. They’re also starting to show at the creek mouths as they ready for winter, Whitfield says.

Elsewhere

• At Homosassa, the trout bite is good over hard, yellow bottom with brown rock grass. Look for channels starting westward from creek and river mouths. Redfish are on the outside keys and biting on the last part of the incoming tide. Live shrimp work best, but cut lizardfish works well too. The near shore rocks are producing keeper gag grouper on casting plugs. Spanish mackerel, sheepshead and flounder are being caught on live shrimp, reports Capt. William Toney of Homosassa Inshore Fishing Charters (352-621-9284)

• At Sebastian Inlet, there’s been lots of wind and the water is choppy, but anglers are still catching snook. Lots of Spanish mackerel, bluefish, and jacks in the inlet, as well. There’s the occasional redfish and mangrove snapper. Trout fishing is good inside in the river. On the beach, the pompano and whiting bite is picking up, reports Whitey’s Bait & Tackle (321-724-1440).

• At Fort Pierce, offshore, there’s been a good bottom bite for lane, mangrove, and mutton snapper. Lots of cobia are still on the reefs as well. A few sailfish are starting to show up. In the inlet, the snook bite is good on live croakers and pinfish. The local anglers are also catching sand perch, sheepshead and black drum, reports Clint Walker at the Fishing Center of St. Lucie (772-465-7637).

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