“Where are you going with those fishing rods?”
Yes. I’m actually going fishing. And yes, I’m going in the Hillsborough River. And yes, I do catch stuff there. Big stuff.
The water is clean. It holds fish. It is a beautiful place to drop a line. Night fishing is usually the best, as snook and tarpon look for a late night meal. The city is silent and the lights from downtown Tampa illuminate the water. It’s a great way to unwind after a long day of classes.
This time of year, medium or medium-heavy action rods in the six to seven foot range can handle most fish. There are plenty of sailcats in the water for those who fish with baits like squid and shrimp.
For the lure fishermen, MirrOlures, especially the 52M series, catch fish when retrieved slowly and just under the surface. Pull the lure with the current and near structure. Be careful not to let it fall too deep, as the oyster shells on the bottom will cost you the lure.
The area near the Kennedy Blvd. bridge is a great spot during a moving tide. The eddies around the bridge pilings attract baitfish which attract bigger gamefish. I have caught snook up to 28 inches and tarpon in excess of 50 pounds. Ladyfish and sailcats also abound in this area.
If you’re looking for sailcats and snook, fish near the Boathouse docks. A few tarpon can be caught around this area, but they are fairly rare.
Make sure you have a license. This is Florida saltwater and a license is required. They can be purchased at http://myfwc.com/license.html and are good for one year from the date of purchase.
If you catch a fish, it is best to release it. Tarpon require special permits to keep, and snook have tricky season regulations. Visit http://myfwc.com/marine/regulation.htm to learn about Florida fishing regulations.
UT is blessed with a winter haven for big fish. The Hillsborough River has abundant fish year-round, and you can expect to see me out there many nights.