A Fishing Guide's Journal of Tampa Bay Fishing in December 2011

tampa bay fishing - catch a snook
Dr. Piazza with a beautiful snook!

Over the past several weeks, and particularly in the last week as the new moon approached and passed, we’ve seen some of the best fishing in recent months. In the fishing world, when you catch all three of the big inshore species (snook, trout and redfish) in one trip, we call it a “grand slam.” And as a fishing guide, I’ve recently been seeing grand slams achieved on nearly every trip. Some have even experienced a huge bonus – flounder!
Flounder fishing has been off-the-charts good for several months, and anglers aboard my boat, the Flat Back II, have been getting some monsters. Well, I say monsters, because for the past half-dozen years or so, we’ve been able to catch a couple of “flatties” per trip, but they were usually only just a couple inches or so over the minimum size of 12-inches. Now, we’re seeing Flounder that are so large they’re about 16 – 18 inches.
We have been using an assortment of lures to catch our fish. Some of these include the DOA Shrimp and Deadly Combo, CAL Jigs with Shad tails, MirrOlure soft plastic Lil’ John Jerk baits, MirrOlure Top Dogs, and MirrOlure MirrOdines. Baitfish that I’m seeing on the flats are primarily pinfish, Key West grunts, killifish and finger mullet. The occasional scaled sardine school pops up on warm days.
Weather conditions have been all over the board with air temperatures in the mornings ranging from 59 to 65 and in the afternoons from 74 to 86. Winds have been blowing all around the clock from calm to 26 mph. With conditions like these, a string of days with moderate weather is required to stabilize conditions, and the days around Thanksgiving throughout the weekend are just what we needed.
On a recent all-release trip, I took out Dr. Mike Piazza and his son Brian. Dr. Piazza from Clearwater won a half-day trip being the highest bidder in the 2011 PinellasCCA auction. In just over an hour, Brian had already completed a grand slam, catching snook, trout, and redfish. Dr. Piazza took his time and got his slam in just over 2 hours.
I typically fish with my clients to pattern fish, check color and bait preference and basically to see what fish will eat at the time. When fishing with the Piazzas, it seemed that the holographic gold glitter CAL Shad rigged on a ¼ oz. chartreuse CAL jig head got the nod from everything we caught, which included seven snook, six redfish, a couple dozen or so trout, and some flounder. Reds ran in the 21-to 23-inch range, snook were to 28-inches, and trout to 18-inches. Flounder caught were 16-to 18-inches.
The next day’s action was much the same with some more monster flounder being caught. Trout were larger, including some in the mid-twenty inch range, and reds to 24-inches. Some very large lizardfish were also caught, including two that were over the world record size of 2-pounds (both caught on CAL Jigs with Shad tails). But are you going to turn in a potential world record on a lizardfish? Let’s just say, my buddy Todd Staley, former owner of 12-Fathom Jigs, co-owns that record and he deserves to maintain his lofty status of world record holder.
The following day was a breezy repeat of the previous several days with some of the best action on the bottomed out tides early in the morning while fishing potholes. With two vacationing anglers, we used Eppinger Rex Spoons and CAL Jigs with Shad tails which hammered 13 reds, six snook, 38 trout, and 11 flounder. This solid day of fishing wrapped up another beautiful weekend of Tampa Bay fishing. Enjoy it while it’s good!