That stray 5-gallon bucket that's occasionally seen out there can have tripletail and dolphin on it. Any kind of floating object that will give a little shade can hold fish. At this range, bottom dwellers will have a good distance from warm surface waters, and somewhere from top to bottom these fish will find a comfortable place to hang. Thermoclines that develop as cooler layers of water in the water column will attract fish seeking these cooler temperatures.
Currents like the Loop Current that swirls around from the Gulf Stream and around the Florida Keys moves up into the Gulf and may present itself to West Central waters in proximity close enough for larger boats to head out and target sailfish, blue and white marlin, or swordfish. Hot spot locations including the Steps, the Elbow, and Florida's Middle-grounds are meccas for bluewater fishing.
These depths and ranges offshore are not for small boats, but for boats equipped for long runs and capable of handling any kind of weather that can pop up this time of year. Tropical storms, disturbances, and hurricanes give enough notice generally that anglers can plan a trip, but summer thunderstorms can be violent, churning up dangerous seas that not only can be hazardous but can also burn more fuel.
So, vessels doing long range runs should always take fuel capacity into consideration.
Anglers will target gag and red grouper that will stage up on offshore wrecks from the 80-foot mark on out to 120 feet of water. Amberjacks reopen this month for those who are looking for a muscle-burning workout.
Mangrove snapper will cover up some wrecks and artificial reefs. Solid K fishing for these fish, ranging up to about 10 pounds, is expected at these depths, but you're likely to find mangos on most any structure beginning at around 20 feet. As a rule, deeper depths produce larger fish now.
These nocturnal feeders come Into their own particularly on full moon nights. Overnight trips aboard party boats that leave the docks from Hubbard's Marina in John's Pass typically hit the full moon periods for mangrove snapper. This month the full moon is on Aug. 29. Buckets of fresh chum or frozen chum blocks will bring these fish right up to the boat. A little investment in time creating and maintaining a chum line will pay back with big dividends.
Season for spiny lobster, also known as 'bugs' to those who get them, opens on Aug. 6. Most divers will be southbound to the Keys, however a number of folks say spiny lobsters are available all around the coast if you know where to look.
Sometimes the action inshore can be hot and sometimes cold. A hot bite seems to coincide with cooler times and the cold bite when it's hot. Peak temperatures typically run between 3 and 5 p.m.
Stronger tide days around the weeks of the new and full moons can fire up snook and trout for some great action just before sunset. Inshore anglers sneaking out before the break of day can experience some of the best fishing available when temperatures are at their lowest, particularly when those times are around the major and minor solunar periods. Days with cloud cover and thunderstorms will be cooler and with a breeze, which can raise oxygen levels in the water and create a hot bite on these cooler days.
Tarpon will be found well up inside Tampa Bay around the bridges. Large black drum will also take up residence around the bridge pilings. Dead shad soaked on the bottom will be a top choice for 'poons and a cut blue crab will haul in monster black drum.
Keep eyes peeled on the edges of grass-flats for rays. Cobia sometimes hold tight to the backs of rays. Keep a pitch rod ready with a small blue crab hooked or a medium heavy spinning rod rigged with an eel imitation. Both will draw strikes from hungry cobia.
Bait schools that hang in Tampa Bay around channel and range markers draw Spanish mackerel to the fray, but cobia will also work the pilings for a bite to eat.
HUNTING Hunters have limited choices this month. Zone A hunters with bows and crossbows, can hunt antlered deer on private lands beginning the first of this month. Hog hunting is permitted year-round on private land. Pinellas County offers a bow hunter education course on Aug. 5.
* BESTBET WEST CENTRAL
Mangrove snapper can fill the bill if you're into a night trip, but for the daylight hours, redfish might be the answer to your quest for a bent rod. Crabs, shrimp and an assortment of small baitfish are their primary diet. Spoons and soft-plastic jig- and jerkbaits all work on rising tides as redfish move up under the shade of the mangroves or onto an oyster bar to feed. Cut mullet or ladyfish will inspire even the most finicky of feeders into eating. Whether it's live bait, dead bait, or artificial lures, these fish well keep you busy in the heat.