Here on the Gulf Coast, hurricane season is upon us as well as the late afternoon thunderstorms that come on a regular basis during the warm summer months. This year, things were cooking early with lots of action heating up in the tropics and storms brewing quickly. In the beginning of the season, Tropical Storm Debby 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.
Fish “Stock Up” on Food Before a Storm
As for the fish…they felt the effects of Debby as well. Prior to the storm’s arrival, barometric pressure began to plummet, and fish chewed hard in anticipation of the foul weather. Several of my 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. After the storm approached, the bite was quickly cooled off by the weather changes that happened on Saturday afternoon, June 23rd.
After the Storm, Look for “Clean” Water
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, July 1st, 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, however, the 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 unrequited 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.
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, we can expect a steady improvement in the action here in the Tampa Bay area. For me, July is usually an exciting tarpon month, 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. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!
Article by Ray Markham
Capt. Ray Markham runs the Flat Back II fishing charter out of Terra Ceia. If you would like to schedule a charter, please contact him at (941) 228-3474 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.