I was lucky last Thursday (Aug. 20) to get in a half-day trip. After heavy thunderstorms and rains the day before, there were few others boating. We endured storms every morning last week, and the cloud cover and fresh water dropped the water temperature a few degrees.
We were pleasantly surprised by improved fishing. Because the winds were blowing ooff the Gulf, we concentrated our efforts inside. I looked for snook in places around the Pass but found only a few small snapper. We cruised into Lemon Bay and stopped at a grassy edge as the tide started to flood in.
I was hoping we’d see a few trout or ladyfish while we waited for the tide to come up. I was pleasantly surprised we caught a bunch of trout, some ladyfish, plus bluefish and even a small gag grouper. It was encouraging to see the baby grouper, and even better when we caught another later.
I looked around before picking up my party, intent on trying to catch a well full of minnows. This had been easy days before, but with overcast skies and no current flow I only found a few. Since Stump Pass Marina had some nice live shrimp for sale, I decided to bring a few dozen along.
That turned out to be a really good decision, because even with hordes of pinfish picking at them, we did better on shrimp than the minnows that day. Fishing always manages to surprise me. Maybe the cooler waters tricked fish into believing fall was here. I wish I could believe that too, but at least a few cooler days were enjoyable.
As we looked for another spot, I noticed a school of minnows and added some to our collection. Since the tide flow was pushing in strongly, the minnows were at the surface and easy to catch. It appears we have a new hatch because they are tiny. Still, we were glad to have some.
I decided to try an oyster bar for snook. We caught a fat two-pound trout on our first cast. That was encouraging, so I chummed with a few minnows and stuck around. A few minutes later one of the guests hooked a larger fish. I thought I knew what she had, but it had been so long since we caught one I waited to be certain.
I was right — a beautiful, brilliant, dark water redfish (and a dandy too) came to the boat. We took a few quick photos and returned it to the sea. We managed to catch another before we moved on. It was very encouraging to see redfish in Lemon Bay again.
We tried it again at another oyster bar and got one more nice redfish on the first cast. After that, it was nothing but mullet everywhere, so we moved again. I was surprised that we never got any snook bites. Maybe they were in the passes?
Since the ladies wanted something for dinner and the winds had backed off, we headed outside. We trolled in 25 feet of water and landed a half-dozen Spanish mackerel. Two were good-sized keepers, which we chilled in the fish box as we headed for Stump Pass Grille and lunch.
We enjoyed watching some dolphins that moved in and chased us off several times. The ladies were glad to see them; I was not. I see NOAA was addressing the dolphin problems in Gulf waters. We love to watch dolphins, but we do not like that they have become great fish thieves.
Flipper stealing fish is a problem for them and us. I’m not sure what we can do, but it only took a decade of sharing about this problem for anyone to talk about addressing it. I hope we can come up with something to discourage these wonderful animals.
Remember that you can’t catch fish if you don’t go fishin’, so let’s go fishin’ soon.
Capt. Van Hubbard is a highly respected outdoor writer and fishing guide. He has been a professional USCG-licensed year-round guide since 1976, and has been fishing the Southwest Florida coast since 1981. Contact him at 941-468-4017 or VanHubbard@CaptVan.com.