Fishing Report: Valentine’s Weekend 2022


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Fishing Report: Valentine's Weekend 2022

Fishing Report: Valentine’s Weekend 2022

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Find a windbreak area for offshore fish to keep warm

When the water is stagnant and cold, the fish don’t really move near shore, but if you’re looking for a shoreline that’s sheltered from the wind and basking, that’s where the fish hang out outside trying to stay warm.

Madeira Beach, FloridaEvery Friday morning, as we head into the weekend, Captain Dylan Hubbard of Hubbard Wharf joins Good Day to let viewers know about his fishing predictions.

it’s his fishing report February 11, 2022.

Weather Effects of Fishing

It looks like the first part of our weekend was good weather, followed by a big Sunday.

Then, behind that front, we had a strong high pressure coming into the area. This coming Wednesday, we will have a full moon on February 16th. Because of the weather, it looks like the best weather days are the Friday and Saturday before the striker.

Association: Fox 13 Weather Forecast

nearshore

Redfish is one of the offshore species less affected by cooler temperatures and cold front activity. They have been foraging steadily offshore for the past week.

It just takes some work to hone the areas where you can find them. Our friends at Salt Strong have a class on this and always say “90% fish in 10% water”. Well, I think it’s especially true this time of year, when they’re really concentrated where the water temperature congregates.

Redfish (Source: Hubbard Pier)

If our water temperature is cooler, even small changes in surrounding water temperature can really gather bait, predators and increase feeding, increasing fishing opportunities. For example, if you have a large bay with an opening on the south side, and the wind is coming from the northwest, if you fish on that west to north side, you are not only fishing on the windbreak shoreline, but in an area that gets a full day in the afternoon sun.

When considering areas to fish at this time of year, it is important to consider wind direction and amount of sunlight. Then, once in that prime area, look for pockets, cuts, or holes adjacent to flats, pier lines, or shorelines where these fish may soak up warm, calm waters. Present a very slow-moving soft plastic and cut the dead bait or live shrimp, being careful not to startle them. You should have a good chance of catching a nice fish or two!

Sheep heads are now loaded around local buildings. This muddy and churning cool water environment is exactly what they are looking for and thriving. Local bridges, large pier structures, rock piles, and even seawalls are great places to look for crabs, shrimp, and other crustaceans and mollusks, but they also eat barnacles!

Sheep’s Head (Source: Hubbard Wharf)

Using lighter tackles, minimal weight, and some small, sturdy hooks is a great way to target these goodiesEat hearty fish. Residential canal points under larger piers are also good viewing areas, especially areas where water flows near flats or passages.

Trout activity in the area has been steady, but not what we’re used to this time of year. Normally trout bites are insane in an apartment, but it’s even harder to find large numbers of them in our area. However, the South Shore area and Upper Bay are much better, and our North really seems to be a mecca for trout. Around Fort De Soto and Pinellas Point and around Boca Ciega Bay, we didn’t see the same concentration of trout as this time of year.

Trout (Source: Hubbard Pier)

Wherever you can find them, however, they bite well, especially in the shallower ones. You can use slow moving soft plastic or throw live shrimp to get some tasty trout. Local beach fishing piers also produce some nice spotted trout along the beach.

Snook activity has largely been deep into the bay, but some local anglers have had good luck getting close to the mouth of the bay and passing. However, most of the fish are tucked back into the shallower back bay areas, near the mouths of rivers, creeks and estuaries, where warm, stable water temperatures are most common.

Snook (Source: Hubbard Pier)

These guys are smart and opportunistic feeders this time of year and you will often find situations where you can see a lot of fish but they are not feeding. Residential canals, especially those in bays, can be laden with fish that just meander over the water, but usually don’t forage for food. Usually when you can’t see snooker in those canals, you have a chance of catching one.

The dark bay mud in the back bay and canal area is what really attracts and holds snooker. A degree or two warmer, and the Black Bay Mud really radiates heat and keeps snooker happy and hungry. Finding pier lights at the mouths of these canals at night usually gives you a good chance of catching beautiful fish. Getting them off the dock on the lighter tackle needed to create a bite around the lights is another thing.

Bonnethead sharks are now prolific around bays, passes and beaches. At this time of year, these cooler, murkier waters are a breeding ground for a seemingly endless stream of hatheads that love some live or even dead shrimp on the bottom.

Bonnethead Shark (Source: Hubbard Pier)

Many local anglers and tourists enjoy catching the prolific herring sharks near the passes and beaches. You can also find large numbers of these sharks in the bay, around certain passages and apartments. Great fun on lighter tackle and endless fun for anglers of any experience level.

The flounder action has been spotty, but lately the whole area has been fine. This is the time of year when they become more aggressive and ready to eat. They can often be found near structures such as docks, bridges, rock piles, and other similar places. Also, like the building, the grass and oyster bar will also have flounder raised nearby. Look for those sandy areas or edges and make sure your bait is at or near the bottom. Once you find them, there are usually more nearby as well.

nearshore

For us and many anglers in water depths of 40-80 feet, centipede activity close to shore has been smooth. We were really aiming for 50-70 feet of water and did a good job with live shrimp and lighter tackle.

Our full 10 hours gives us the most time to really dial in to catch them, but when they’re ready to eat, a half day sometimes rivals our full day catch. They like some live shrimp, but will also eat sand fleas, rock shrimp and fiddler crabs. We do see them biting squid and needlefish, but it’s not that common. They cruise above the bottom, looking for crustaceans on the shell bottoms near ledges, flat hard bottoms with sea fans and other growths, or the occasional rocky Swiss cheese area.

Pig Fish (Source: Hubbard Wharf)

If you get to bigger ledges and bigger structures, it’s trickier to dial in pigfish with many other, more aggressive species around. Typically, when targeting hogfish, you have to pick a bunch of grey snapper, small red grouper, sand bass, lizardfish, and snapper before you can start seeing hogfish bite well.

Patience and persistence are the keys to finding pigfish, especially when looking for the right depth and area. Using swivel bars and reels was preferred for us because of their better feel for bite and higher gear ratios.

Make sure you have a super light, responsive rod and a sturdy spine, because a nice pigfish can really give you a good fight. We usually use about 3000-4000 series spinning reels, you really want something light and sturdy when it comes to this unique looking and delicious fish.

Because they’re looking for those crustaceans, we often find that using a percussion rig with some red beads helps us make some noise, and often helps lure pigfish to your shrimp. Also, tossing away from the boat, bottoming out your bait, raising your wrist from time to time to bounce, and getting closer to the boat seem to help.

Every time the weight lifts off the bottom and bounces back close to the boat, it creates a bit of sand on the bottom, which is detrimental for targeting just about any other good fish, but rings the dinner bell for hogfish.

Red groupers have a spotty movement near the coast, but once they get deeper they become more common. Finding breeder-sized red groupers is the tricky part near shore, but fishing closer to 80-100 feet in the deepest inshore waters will give you the best chance of finding breeder fish.

Using whole fins, live needlefish, or squid strips with their tails cut off is the best way to try to entice breeder groupers to bite your bait. Using a lead hook of about 40-50 lbs and a 6-7 ton hook is also a good inshore red grouper setup, depending on your bait size. They love those potholes, smaller ledges and flat hard bottom areas.

Snappers are prolific around our inshore waters and have been biting well for us. We most often see them in water depths of 60-100 feet. They can be quite large and we often find them on squid, horsetail chunks or live shrimp. They are also more aggressive and less shy than their mangrove snapper cousins. This makes it easier for them to be more productive when fishing inshore.

The mangrove snapper also nibbled steadily on the shore. We saw them mostly deeper near the coast near the 100 foot mark, but we were capturing decent sized mangroves 50-60 feet deep. It’s a good idea to use lighter 30-40 lb leads and double rib hooks on small threaded blocks. A higher gear ratio cord reel is also key, ensuring you can quickly retrieve large amounts of cord and set up hooks easier and faster.

Mangrove Snapper (Source: Hubbard Pier)

offshore

We are now in the midst of a deep water spawning closure for the grouper species, which does not allow you to keep any shallow water grouper schools in 20 fathoms or 120 feet of water.

This means that if you cross that closed line, you have to release red grouper and sturgeon. Usually this time of year, that means a lighter load and more space on the boat, and we do a great job with the fish as well. During our 39 hour and 44 hour night tours, we will target mangrove snapper and other species to fish deeper than the closed line.

Then, during the day, when we plan to target groupers, we will move shallower within the “fences” where groupers are legally reserved. Once we have them in the fish box, you must stay in the open area and don’t venture any further.

Red grouper operations around the 100-120 ft area have been going well for us, but unfortunately, lately, the weather has limited our ability to get out there and actually look for them in any way. We hope, however, that the approaching full moon will give us a chance to catch them during a 44-hour trip to the far side of the moon, while daytime bites usually start to improve. Also, during the first half of the trip, we’ll have plenty of time to venture deeper at 140-160 feet at night and target mangrove snapper.

Red Grouper (Source: Hubbard Pier)

Mangrove snapper action has been smooth for us in waters over 100 feet deep. We see these guys are big on average, and they’ve been aggressively biting for us as well. They perform well on cut-line fins and dual Snell rigs with high gear ratio reels, and those sensitive lighter bars allow you to “feel” the bite more easily.

Mangrove snapper is one of my favorite fish to target and catch…

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