TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Water temperatures have cooled down significantly in the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, into the low 70s.
This brings in a whole new wave of species to target in our area for the winter months.
Although many species that would typically be targeted this time of the year are closed for harvest, like gag grouper, there are still plenty of fish to catch and harvest.
Captain Kyle Applefield with Loaded Down Sport Fishing tells 8 on Your Side’s Amanda Holly that the hog snapper bite is on fire this time of year, anywhere from depths of 30 to 80 feet.
“they congregate on the nearshore and offshore ledges and wrecks and you don’t have to go too far, inside of 15 miles,” Applefield said.
As for bait, it’s all about the shrimp with hogfish. You want to make sure you have a lot of them, several dozen at least.
While you’re catching hogfish, you’ll likely catch key west grunts as well as mangrove and lane snappers which are all great to eat as well.
Applefield said to make sure you have a flat line hanging out the back with live bait to catch any kingfish running by. Also have a spare rod ready to go for any Cobia as well. He said the Cobia are offshore and inshore right now.
If you’re staying inside the bay, there’s plenty to be on the lookout for us as well. “My favorite thing to do this time of year as it cools down and you get those first few big cold fronts, is to ride the crab trap buoys looking for tripletail,” said Applefield.
The inshore bite also includes sheepshead, trout, redfish, and snook.
If you are willing to head out to the deeper water, Applefield told Holly the red snapper are still out in at least 110 feet of water. The scamp grouper can be found closer to 200 feet of water.