June begins a period on the Gulf Coast known as hurricane season. Things were cooking early with lots of action heating up in the tropics, with storms brewing early. Last week was pretty much spent watching the effects of Tropical Storm Debby as she made her way into the Gulf of Mexico, stirring up the waters, unloading torrential rains and spawning tornadoes. Bad side of these storms is that damage to personal property was recorded with some major flooding issues, but worse than that, several deaths were as a result of the storm's fury.
As for the fish, they felt the effects as well. Prior to the storm's arrival, barometric pressure began to plummet, and fish chewed hard in anticipation of the foul weather. Several trips scored some major catches of speckled trout, redfish, snook, black sea bass, flounder and even Spanish mackerel and bluefish. As Debby moved closer up the Gulf, weather continued to deteriorate, and the fishing did as well. Right up to June 23 as the storm moved in, I ran trips, but on that day's trip it was obvious that the morning bite that fired off was quickly cooled by the afternoon's weather changes as the storm approached.
It wasn't until the following Wednesday before the weather began to clear, but the water did not. Murky brown-stained water and the turbidity sent fish looking for cleaner water. The flats looked like barren wastelands where the water was still dirty. Deeper water in lower Tampa Bay was brown and still stirred up even on Sunday, nearly four days after Debby's exit from the Gulf.
We targeted tarpon in the morning, hoping to find some rolling fish to sight cast to. We spotted several fish over hard bottom areas in 10 to 21 feet of water, but most did not show. But fish were there. In areas where there were no fish, the water was brown. The tarpon bunched up over hard bottom areas that could be seen on the recorder, and also because as the fish stirred close to the bottom over the limestone, coral and sponges, they stirred up a chalky yellowish/ white silt from the bottom that gave away their presence. It was mostly blind casting in these areas with artificial lures. I threw the 77M MirrOlure, DOA Shimp, DOA Baitbuster Trolling Model and DOA Crab, but these fish were not on their feeding game. After several hours of poon pursuit, with only a few bumps and follows to show for it, we pulled up the Minn Kota I-Pilot and went looking for some other fish to target.
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Clean water was hard to come by, but where we did find it, we caught some nice trout, frisky ladyfish and black seabass. Time ran out before we could begin looking for redfish.
With improving water quality and movement on Tuesday's full moon, we can expect a steady improvement in the action here in the Terra Ceia area. For me, July is usually an exciting tarpon month here, and we usually have some of our best action for snook, redfish and trout as well. Days can be scorchers, so fish early or late and drink plenty of fluids. Till then, I'll catch ya later!
Capt. Ray E. Markham
Flat Back II