Catch and release fishing
What do you want to catch? If it swims in Tampa Bay or the Gulf of Mexico, there’s a good chance you could target it right now.
Capt. Larry Morroney has to make that decision before each trip.
“On the calm days we’ve been fishing nearshore catching kingfish, mackerel, permit and more,” Morroney said. “The inshore fun fishing has been really good too. There are plenty of snook around with redfish still on the flats.
“That last cold front kept the fish in shallow for a little bit longer before they head for deeper water or to the passes. It also kept the kingfish around before they start heading further north.”
This week there has been another popular target making its presence felt around the inshore waterways. Tarpon reports from the bay have picked up, with Morroney also landing his first of the season.
“Early in the season we see resident fish coming out of the river and backwaters, Morroney said. “They usually show up around the (Skyway) bridge or Port Manatee first. We also find them on some deep grass flats in five to eight feet of water.
“We set out one morning to look for tarpon and on the way to where I wanted to go, we ran across a small school on a deep grass flat. The fish on the grass seem more willing to eat a pinfish or threadfin versus fish on the beach that might only want a crab.”
Morroney presented a bait and hooked up. Using 50-pound spinning tackle and 80-pound leader the tarpon, about 60 pounds, put on a spectacular aerial display but was quickly landed after a 15-minute battle. After a quick photo, it was released to fight another day.
With his first tarpon of the season in the books, Morroney says over the next month the bigger migration of fish will move their way north, and he’ll begin to target them along the clean beach waters.
“I’ve seen a few small schools while running in from nearshore trips,” Morroney said. “It’s usually about the second week of May the big schools start to show up.”
In recent years the tactics and amount of anglers has changed standard tarpon migrations.
“There’s always people in the pass chumming with dead bait, and it’s tough to get a bite,” Morroney said. ”It turns into such a mess with the big crowds. I prefer to get out on the beach and fish the schools. It’s more exciting to me to stalk them on the beaches and get away from the crowd.”
If there weren’t enough options to target while fishing these days, the silverking adds another. It’s a good problem to have for captains like Morroney.