Busiest Spring/Summer Ever 7/23/15

I took a quick glance at my website to make sure everything was working and up to date and noticed I hadn’t posted in quite a while, and then looked at how many trips I have run this calendar year and realized it is due to how busy I have been thus far this year! I can’t thank my great customers enough, and appreciate everyone who recommends me.

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A brief recap of what happened spring and early summer- we caught tons of GIANT redfish through March and April, while mixing in a solid snook bite and a nice kingfish season that was a little early this year due to high water temps. Then moved into an early tarpon season as they showed up in mass numbers early in May. Some of the best days came for those that were very flexible on schedule and as soon as I said they showed up, they booked some trips and saw some EPIC sights before the crowds of people got word of the fish. Caught tons of tarpon up to 200 lbs, and occasionally mixed in some days catching beach snook and schooled up reds. Trout have actually remained pretty consistent throughout.

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That brings us to currently. Schools of redfish are starting to move in to the shallow water in mass…many schools, and some tailing fish on the low tides which is an unbelievable sight to be seen. These fish should stay through October and be on a pretty good feed that gets better as the water cools. Mangrove snapper, trout, spanish mackerel are all still present in pretty good numbers, and soon the snook will start to move back into the flats post spawn and start feeding heavily as fall and winter approach. We are coming up on a great time to be on the water, August the ambitious can get out on some low tides and target 30-35″ redfish sitting in 2′ of water or less standing on their heads tailing. Then September, October, and November the waters cool, temps cool, and fall feed begins. Call or email today to get your date on the books!

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Tight Lines,
Capt Greg Doherty
(727) 871-8822

The Thick of Winter Time Fishing…Still Hammering Them!

Well winter kind of poked it’s head out a few times with some cold fronts here and there through December and January, and water temps dipped a bit, but eventually warmed back up…but that has changed the last couple weeks. Now we are in the middle of our Florida winter, and fish are acting like it, as well as bait. Starting with the redfish, the bite is tough right now for these spotted tail beauties…BUT I know how to get them! The fish are here, but in the crystal clear water, and low tides, they are tough to get a bait in front of. Once we locate some fish being stealth is key, and getting a long cast out in front of the fish is paramount. Then we wait them out…and hang on for dear life as they double the rod over and take off screaming! Here is a pic of a big ole 33″ 12lb redfish caught by John who was in visiting from Canada. We used cut bait on 7’6″ MF Tsunami Airwave Coastal, with a Penn Conflict 3000 reel full of 15lb PowerPro and 20 lb flourocarbon leader with a 1/0 circle hook.

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Trout fishing has remained pretty steady right now. Drop offs and 3′-6′ spotted bottom are holding the schoolie slot fish, and the shallow water 2′ potholes are holding the big gator trout. Shrimp and jigs have been doing the trick for these fish, but I am not shy about throwing whitebait at them if we have it. The trout are quite tolerant of the cold and still tend to eat pretty good on the chilly days. I have found that a little cloud cover helps some of the bigger fish to feel comfortable and eat. Here is Brianna with her big ole 24″ gator trout caught on a live whitebait in a couple feet of water!

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Rounding out the bite right now are the sheepshead, black drum, flounder, smaller redfish, and even a few snook still willing to eat. These fish are all holding on docks, deep hard bottom holes. and near oyster beds. Using shrimp with a split shot up about a ft on the leader, with the tail pinched off has been working like a charm. This time of year some of the most consistent fishing is around residential docks that have some depth and hold warmth in the touch deeper water. As well bridges and rock piles can be equally as productive if conditions allow you to anchor and fish them properly. Here is a great customer of mine Bill with his biggest snook to date that we got to eat on a pretty chilly day using the same Tsunami Airwave Coastal, and Penn Conflict 3000 setup as above!

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It looks like we have at least another couple of weeks of chilly weather ahead of us, but spring is just around the corner, the redfish and snook will remember what they were missing and start eating every whitebait in sight, and 75-80 degree days will be upon us! Book your trip now to get in on the springtime action…come March it will be go time!

Capt Greg Doherty
(727) 871-8822

Winter Time Fishing…On Fire!

Jump on the roller coaster ride called “winter cold fronts” and hang on! The fishing has remained really good the whole last month, but the location of the fish changes quite frequently with the fronts. Bayside flats during the first week of December were on fire as if it was spring with near 80 temps, and then the following week you had to search out the fish in backwaters areas and coerce them to eat. Of course with winter has come the low low tides that I mentioned last month. This can lead to extremely good fishing when you find where they all have settled down. One day with a 20 mph north wind and a -.5 low tide I found the snook and trout absolutely loaded on the edge of a channel- good timing and a quick glance off the bow led to non stop action for 2 hrs for my customers! Here is Robbie with a slot snook caught that day on a new Penn Spinfisher V 3500 with 20 lb flouro and 15lb braid and a 1/0 circle hook! He had a 76″ saltwater slam that day- not bad for coming down to visit from cold New Hampshire!

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When the flats heat up during the day look for redfish, snook, and trout in the potholes mixed in the mullet schools. The fish are in pretty skinny water this time of year so moving slowly and stealthily is key. I tend to find the fish more on the backside of the mullet waiting for what has been kicked up. If you can find live whitebait don’t be afraid to throw it this time of year, yes the fish tend to transition to more crabs and shrimp, but I still find that a whitebait will do the trick. If they are sluggish just slow the bait a little in some wounding capacity. I had Jose out by himself for his 40th birthday present from his wife…and what an absolutely epic trip he had. 100 fish in 6 hrs by himself- snook, trout, redfish, flounder and a couple jacks! Here he is using the same rig as above with a big overslot redfish caught on a live whitebait!

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Once that warm passed I switched it up one day and headed to target cobia and pompano. These fish can be great meals and caught on artificial when bait gets scarce. They love riding around with stingrays, manatees, and on skinny flats when the sun gets up. We were using eels and gotcha jigs for the day and had good success. As well don’t be surprised if the schools of jacks storm you and you catch some of these hard fighting beasts as well. Here is Mark with a couple full grown Florida pompano- the one on the left went over 20″!

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Braving the elements and continuing to fish amidst the fronts can be quite fruitful and a great learning experience. If people say we don’t have seasons in Florida, let them know surely we do, right now it’s low-tide fishing, along with big trout, cobia, and pompano season…otherwise known as winter!

Step into Fall/Early Winter Fishing

Weather patterns are on the move and so are the fish! We have had some fronts for the past 3 weeks or so, and with that has come volatile fishing conditions. When that North wind blows and those big moons come out, it changes everything in the bay! Schools of redfish seem to move and often times seemingly disappear from our area flats, and the fish freak out a little so to speak. Then a couple days later the winds settle down, the fish get comfy again…and all is right again in the world. This fall has been a bit of a roller coaster ride, but with that said we have still done very well. It takes a lot of time on the water, scouting, fishing, and a few good guesses and you can find loads of premier game fish in Tampa Bay even amidst adverse conditions.

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Here are Colin, Mike, and Chad with an awesome overslot redfish triple header. These fish were caught on Penn Spinfisher V 3500’s with Medium Hurricane Redbone rods and 1/0 Eupro circle hooks using live whitebait.

The snook are loaded on the flats when the weather is settled. Also as we start to experience our daytime low tides you can find these fish on deep water drop offs and in large potholes that still hold water. Live whitebait has been the bait of choice for the male fish ranging from 20-26″, but to get that slot fish and bigger we have had better luck slowing it down a bit with pinfish in some sort of wounded fashion.

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Here is Augustine who was in visiting his son Cesar with a beauty 32″ snook caught on the same rig as above!

What else is out there…everything right now! Kingfish off the beach, triple tail on the traps, pompano at the bridges and structure, and snapper, grouper, AJ, and cobia in the nearshore waters. I don’t get the opportunity to hit those species as much, but I as well as a few captains I work closely with have all had great success on our good calm weather days in the waters up to 10 miles offshore!

Lastly, it was also tournament time the last month with a lot of corporate and charity events. We had a day we caught 57 redfish in about 2.5 hrs one trip, caught the 3rd place trout another tourney, 75 snook a different tourney along with big overslot reds, and was fortunate enough to fish and win the Hawks, Line, and Sinker Hillsborough Community College Annual Fishing Tournament. Here is John my winning angler below with his 33″ snook!
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Summer Bite Stays Caliente!!

The time is now!! The redfish schools have invaded the bay, and the bite has been as hot as the weather. Those that have fished with me, or are familiar with me, know that I am an admitted addict of the flats and spend a lot of time on them; with that said, now is a time of year that I love! The redfish are pre-spawn, loving to eat, and loaded throughout the bayside flats. I have been fishing 5 to 6 different schools in the bay and the bite has been rock solid.

The schools and the fish vary in size from slot fish, to schools of big overslot breeder fish. Daily what they are liking to eat is varying from live bait to cut bait, and it is just trial and error until you figure it out any given day. Here is a shot of a fellow Online Fisherman forum member Lance who hired me to get him out when his family was in town. We must have caught over 50 redfish within a couple of hours, and had quadruple hookups like this one left and right! We were using live whitebait on Medium action Hurricane Redbone rods, outfitted with Penn Spinfisher V 3500’s with 15 lb braid, and 20 lb leader and a 1/0 circle hook.

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As well given the right circumstances you can see these redfish schools tailing, which in itself is a sight to be seen, regardless of catching them. They have to be in a pretty content state, not spooked and wanting to stick their heads in the ground to eat. I took out a local photographer, Sam Root, and he was able to capture some awesome shots on our trip that day. Here is a pic above of the action! We caught a few fish as well, but just watching these beautiful fish and taking photos of them was the main mission… and is a test of patience for anyone looking to see how long they can go not casting into that mess of fish!

The snook bite is starting to pick up as they are returning from spawn and settling into their transitional locations before the winter. We are getting a lot of the smaller males of course as they tend to be more aggressive. The larger breeding fish are mixed in, and with a little luck we have put some of these beauties to the boat. Remember to keep the line tight on these fish, but not to hoarse them as that is one of the common mistakes I see. Too much pressure on these fish will often cause a fast break of that leader on the razor sharp gill plates of the snook. Most of the fish have been blowing up on live bait in areas with good tidal movement. Mangrove points are the places I concentrate the most when snook fishing. On the high tides they are in tight in the mangroves, and I mean really tight. It is hard to get to them, but if you skip one back into the bushes they will definitely eat it!

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Here is a happy customer with a big ole snook caught on the same gear as above. Doesn’t help a 37 1/2″ snook look big when your customer is a high school kid, Zack, who is a 230 lb. linebacker who is only a junior and will more than likely be playing Division 1 football very soon! He and his dad Mike joined me visiting from South Dakota and got some great fish and had a lot of fun.

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The snapper bite remains pretty strong as well. It has slowed a little, but plenty of them are out there for the taking. These are my favorite fish as far as eating, and are wonderful to fill the cooler with. We have been using small baits, on small hooks with appropriate weight to drift your bait into the strike zone. Usually just a split shot will do. These little guys are quick and have great eye sight, so keeping a keen sense of feel is important, as well as trying to hide that hook the best you can!

Last pic is a shot of some overslot tailing fish with a couple of my best customers, Eddie and his girlfriend Sara, who doubled up near sundown on some real beauties!

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Move slow on those trolling motors, keep a close eye on the activity, and be patient…all the above will pay off as you get the chance to tangle with fish of a lifetime on our wonderful estuary of Tampa Bay!

Tight Lines,

Captain Greg Doherty

(727) 871-8822
www.awakendrag.com

 

5/27/14 Heat of Summer is Coming…Bite is Just as HOT!

Moving into the heat of summer, and the fishing is staying just as hot! The bite has been very consistent aside from the one front filled with wind and rain that we had move through in May. Even then we got good fish to eat, but it shook things up a bit. We have been catching predominantly snook and redfish, with a few snapper, flounder, and trout in the mix. Whitebait has been the bait of choice for everything, sometimes live, and sometimes slowing it down with dead bait. The outgoing tide has produced a little more of a lively bite, but either incoming or outgoing, like always, moving water has been key.

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Here is Alyssa with a nice 38 1/2″ snook caught on a live whitebait that was freelined on a 1/0 circle hook with 15 lb braid and 20 lb flouro leader on a Penn Spinfisher V 3500 with a Medium Action 7′ 6″ Hurricane Redbone Rod. It was a great birthday present for her!

The schools of redfish are still on the bayside flats, but seem to have gotten a little sick of all of the pressure and being caught plenty of times. That said, they still eat, and can still be found occasionally. When the fish seem to get a little tired and slow as the water warms, I often will slow the baits just a little as it seems they don’t want to work too hard for a meal. These fish are cruising the flats on the low tides, and seem to be eating better then. On the high tides they buddy up closer to the shorelines. Move slow, keep a keen eye and be patient.

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Here are Jeff, Kelly, and Kaylee with a triple hook up- one overslot redfish, one slot redfish, and a jack that got into the school looking for an easy meal! Will make a great family Christmas card!

Tarpon are here as well and I have a full week coming up of tarpon fishing. We got one off the beach last week, and lost one other. The bridges and passes have started to fill up with fish, and in turn those fish are traveling the beaches in pods. Timing, good casting and well placed baits, patience, and time on the water will get you that trophy silver king!

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Battle the heat and get out to enjoy the best of what West Central Florida has to offer- the fish are here!

4/30/14 Hit the Hot Bite Before the Hot Weather!

The bite is absolutely lights out right know! Fishing has been some of the best I have seen when the conditions present themselves. With that said it seems to me that this year we have had quite a few late season fronts that are producing a lot of wind, which can present it’s challenges. The temps are starting to creep up and you can feel the humidity start to rise as well- my advice is get out there now while the fish are still in their happy zone!

Redfish, snook, and trout have provided a steady enough bite that we haven’t gone looking for much more. With that said though I have heard reports of nearly everything else with a solid bite as well- mackerel, kings, cobia starting to get thicker, tarpon starting to eat, and some snapper moving into the bay! The flats fishing has been most successful with live bait, or dead chunks. Schools of redfish are littered throughout the bayside flats from Pinellas Point to north of the Causeway.

Here are Ryan and his nephew Wyatt with a double of a nice trout and redfish caught on Penn Spinfisher V 3500’s with Med action Hurricane Redbone rods, 15lb braid, 20 lb flouro, and a 1/0 circle hook!

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Big snook are also creeping around the flats and are willing to eat if you are patient. I usually tell clients not to cast to the ones they see, but fire to ones or areas they don’t see. These fish seem to slowly slumber around and pick up a bait when you least expect it. Here is Skip with his 35″ trophy snook caught on the flats with the same gear as above!

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The big redfish have also been playing nice and if you can get them content you can have a lot of fun. One key to this is not pressing your trolling motor too hard right at them. I see this time and time again and although they are there and get tons of pressure, the reds still don’t seem to like being trolling motored right on top of! Move slow, keep a keen eye, and cast far…then hang on! Here are brothers Kevin and Brian with 3 over 30″ redfish all caught at the same time between the two of them. Talk about a circus trying to land them all!

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Bait is starting to get thick on the flats, and the fish are happy and willing to eat- life is good on the waters of Tampa Bay!

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Tight Lines,
Capt Greg Doherty

3/23/14 Spring Feed is in Full Effect

The spring feed is in full force and now is the time to be on the water! Snook, redfish, and trout are thick and eating nearly everything in sight. The right tides and moon phases help, but fish can be caught all day. The water is at that perfect temp where fish are happy and aren’t too picky about time of day to eat. We have been using mostly live whitebait, as the feel of a big redfish, or snook inhaling a bait on the end of your line is just so exhilarating! Don’t get me wrong though, a slow pick up on a dead chunk works just as well to catch the fish. The whitebait is starting to creep onto the flats this week, and before long it should get easier to obtain.

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Redfish are packed pretty tight in schools, as well as littered in potholes. The overslots seem to have been tightly packed and the slot fish seem to be a little scattered throughout the potholes. Often we have been getting these redfish on such a feed that we are hooking as many fish as lines we have in the water, which makes for quite the dance around the boat as everyone wrestles a 30+” redfish. Here are Rob and his girlfriend Kate with a couple overslot reds caught on freelined whitebait with 1/0 circle hooks and 20lb flouro leader. Robs fish went 35″, while Kate’s was 32″!

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The snook are getting really thick as well. We are getting easily 20 a trip of the smaller males, and a few slot fish each trip as well. The ticket has as well been whitebait around 4″, but they are picking up cut chucks just the same. We are catching these fish near the mangroves, in spotted bottom, and near oyster bars. Odds are if you find one or two, there are probably 20 or more nearby. Here is Jeff with a beautiful 31 1/2″ snook caught on his first cast of the trip. This one made it to the boat on the same set up as above, and the 20lb leader just barely survived the battle!

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The trout are also pretty thick in skinny water, and most of them are good size fish over 20″. Again whitebait is doing the trick free lined on a 1/0 circle hook. I don’t expect these trout to continue to hold as thick much longer in super shallow water, as they will head to a bit cooler water temps, but catch them while you can! Here is Nicholas with a 26 1/2″ gator caught on a big free lined whitebait, with a Penn Spinfisher V 3500 on a Med Hurricane Redbone rod with 15lb power pro,  20lb flouro leader and a 1/0 circle hook!

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Whether you are a local, or down visiting for spring break, this is a great time of year to be catching fish on the pristine waters of the Tampa Bay area!

Tight Lines,

Capt Greg Doherty

(727) 871-8822

3/7/14 Spring has Sprung!

Spring fever has begun! The bite is heating up very nicely the last couple of weeks aside from the one cold front we had which quieted things down for 3 days. In the last two weeks on trips we have caught a wide variety of fish- snook, redfish, trout, black drum, mackerel, sharks, cobia, and a few other less loved species such as jacks and ladyfish. Water temps inching up has fish on the move and the feed. The redfish bite particularly has been quite insane. Watching big 30″+ fish chase and boil on baits has been nothing short of awesome. Here is a father son duo Steve and Justin with a double catch of monster reds.

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These fish were caught on Penn Spinfisher V 3500 reels, Med Redbone rods, with 15lb braid, 20 lb flouro, and 1/0 circle hooks with live whitebait.

The black drum have also started to inch into the bay. They are quite temperamental it seems, but have been eating on the usual suspects, such as shrimp and crabs. If you can find them it can be a ton of fun on light tackle. We got a few on 20lb leader and a bit bigger 40+ lb fish on 40lb leader. Just be patient with these fish as they are very slow, which includes when they eat…it isn’t a super violent bite. Then just hang on and enjoy the tug-o-war. Here are Ed and Sandy in from Alaska with 4 other folks where we did a 2 boat charter for 6 people for 2 days. Captain Michael Murray joined me as the other guide, and the group had a blast for 14 hrs of fishing madness!

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These fish were caught on the same gear as above, but with a jig head and gulp shrimp.

What about the snook? Obvious question with the season opening on March 1st. The bite is heating up nicely as well. The numbers of fish look pretty solid, and the bite should continue to be strong into the summer. If you can find live whitebait that is the ticket in my opinion, and browse the mangrove shorelines looking for pockets of fish. Here is a nice 29 1/2″ that Bob from Alaska got on Tuesday!

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Same rig as above with 1/0 circle and live whitebait.

One thing I have noticed is the increase in boat traffic on the water. Be patient out there, move slowly, wait your turn to move in on fish, and be kind to fellow anglers!

Tight lines!

2/22/14 Spring is Creeping In

Mid winter fishing has been exactly that lately…winter fishing. It really has been a matter of dodging rain, cold fronts, and wind to get on the fish; not to mention I got to take a little vacation. The trout bite is still pretty solid. Average fish are from 13″-19″, with a few bigger 20+” mixed in. We have been using a mix of jigs and mostly live shrimp free lined on a 1/0 circle hook. Remember to let the trout eat it as the bite tends to be a little slower, and don’t set those circle hooks on the soft mouths of the trout.

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Here is Mike in town from Idaho with a just short trout he got on orange/gold shrimp pattern fly.

The water is definitely starting to warm a little, as temps creep towards the 65 range fish and I expect it will get even better with our forecasted beautiful week this week. Very soon the fish will get more comfortable and consistent. Redfish have been holding throughout the bay side flats, but they are incredibly spooky…and I mean incredibly. Clear water, rapid weather changes, and low tides all attribute in my opinion, not to mention fishing pressure. We have been getting them to eat on shrimp, cut bait, and jigs. I like a Mission Fishin 1/8 oz weighted weedless worm hook on a DOA shad or a paddle tail on a 1/8 or 1/4 oz jig head.

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Here is Jeff from Maryland with a 33″ 14lb redfish caught on cut bait using a Penn Spinfisher V 3500, Med Hurricane Redbone rod, with 15lb Power Pro, 20lb flouro leader, and a 1/0 circle hook.

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Anna from Georgia with her very upper slot redfish. Caught on the same rig as above using a live shrimp.

Tight lines all, spring fishing is growing near!