Fall 2020

Posted by on Sep 11, 2020 in Fishing Reports | Comments Off on Fall 2020

Fall 2020 report

Its been a while since posting a report so I hope you all will read it. First is that I dont post many pics here so please follow me on instagram at #capt.tom_sr. Or on facebook at Thomsa L Stephens. Fishing has been really good all year but due to the covid business has been slow. All businesses are suffering but being on the boat with family etc. should be a safe environment. I haven’t had it and none of my clients have had it. So come on down and lets go have some fun and maybe catch some good eats.

The offshore trips or nearshore is where you will get the best chance to catch eating fish. Due to redtide of 2 yrs ago they closed trout, redfish and snook seasons. There are plenty of them to catch but you cant keep any.

Offshore the grouper and snapper are biting real good. Redsnapper season is closed but mangrove snapper and Lane snapper are open. Also amberjack season is open.

No pics on this post so go to either the facebook or Instagram page for pics.

Let me hear from you and come go fishing. Call me at 9417378806 to book a trip or visit our webpage at www.topnotchfishing.com



Fall 2019

Posted by on Nov 19, 2019 in Fishing Reports | Comments Off on Fall 2019

Fall 2019 fishing report

Its been a while since I posted a report so I wanted to catch up. First, in the future go to my instagram for fishing reports and pics. This year has been good with the trips I have done. Plenty of grouper, sharks, tripletail, snook and redfish.

The red tide of last year really hurt the bay fishing so most trips were offshore or in the tampa bay area.

The bay hasn’t yet recovered. Everything was hurt by the red tide. Restaurants were hurt as well as hotels and anything that had to do with the fishing industry. I am thankful it didn’t hurt the offshore fishing so people were able to keep some fish to eat. My son and I are fortunate to have the federal offhore permits so clients can keep fish when we are out past 9 miles. We are the only 2 from the NewPass bait shop that has these permits. They are very expensive in that you have to buy them from someone who has them. The NOAA doesn’t issue them any more. I paid many thousand of dollars to be able to keep fish for clients past 9 miles.

Several guide businesses operate illegally if the keep fish past 9 miles and do not have permits.

I hope to see all of you again this fall and in the new year as my business was hurt bad by the red tide because no one was here. Tune into my instagram to see the latest pics. My instagram is capt.tom_sr.

Hope all of you are well and come on down for some great fall fishing as the spanish macs and kingfish are here as well as tons of sharks. The offshore grouper and snapper fishing is really good too. See you soon….Capt. Tom sr.

Fall report

Posted by on Jan 4, 2019 in Fishing Reports | Comments Off on Fall report

Fall fishing report

Late summer and fall fishing has been interesting. We have had a red tide event that has scared people off. However there have been plenty of fish to catch and plenty of areas that have not had any red tide. The offshore fishing has been really great.

The inshore waters have been really good for snook and big jacks so the action couldn’t have been better. Offshore has been great for grouper and nice size Lane snapper. The kingfish have shown up and those who have had trips and calm days have done really well. I have had some trips where catching a lot of fish have been the agenda so I haven’t been going looking for the kings or haven’t wanted to troll for them.

I guess most of you have decided not to fish during the holidays since you must believe the fishing isnt good. Well you have missed some great action and beautiful weather. The red tide is long gone and the water is back to being beautiful once again. The following pics are of recent trips and hopefully the weather will stay pretty and people will start to come back to our area. I have lots of open days and wondering why my phone doesnt ring any more. Book a trip and lets get out there and have some fun. Happy New Year to all of you and hopefully I will see you soon. Capt. Tom Sr.

From now until later in January the grouper fishing should be really good as the big Gag grouper will move in closer. We have caught some nice size trigger fish but season has been closed to keep any. The inshore fishing should continue to be good for trout and snook as well as sheepshead and jacks and redfish.

Summer 2018

Posted by on Sep 3, 2018 in Fishing Reports | Comments Off on Summer 2018

Summer 2018 fishing report

The summer started off good with lots of catches of snook, trout, grouper snapper etc. ,however it has turned pretty bad as of late. The red tide has hit this area and further south real hard. The red tide is a toxic algae that kills all species of fish and sea life. We have had massive fish kills and dolphins and manatees etc. It has weakened somewhat but might come back hard as ever. Red tide is a natural occurring condition but this year it is bigger than ever due to the help from a toxic green algae from releases of water from lake Okeechobee. Our government leaders allows big sugar to continue to destroy our environment. There has been years of time wasted in allowing these discharges to take place. But its money and politics that are ruining our environment.

Governor Scott, Bill Nelson and other political leaders have turned a blind eye to big sugar. The water use to flow southward through the everglades where it was filtered and cleaned before hitting Florida bay. But they have stopped the natural flow of water and dykes have been put up around lake Okeechobee to allow big sugar to use the land south of the lake for their own good. Now the water is released into the rivers to the east and west of the lake and hits out coast lines. These releases are toxic green slime called cyanobacteria which feeds the red tides and is devastating our sea life and causing respiratory problems for people as well. All we can do is vote these politicians out and hope the next ones will do something. In the meantime we sit and watch fish die by the tons and our beaches void of vacationers due to the smell and other problems. Out counties have spent lots of dollars cleaning the beaches of dead fish and other animals.

One other problem is the runoff of lawns and golf courses where the excess nitrogen and phosphorus feed the red tide. Trumps lack of environmental regulations are really hurting all of us. When I was in the lab business back in the 80,S and 90,S regulations were in place to protect out waters but not any more. EPA and DEP do not have strong limits on theses nutrients like they use to.

So much for the gloom and doom.

The offshore fishing has been good through all this and my trips are all offshore except in tampa bay. The water in tampa bay has not been hit very hard and good fishing can be had. One of my last 2 trips was in tampa bay and we caught plenty of snook and spanish macs. Offshore the grouper and snapper bite is good and the water is clean and beautiful.



If you are planning a trip check out the conditions at myFWC.com before you come.

I guess thats about it except that as we get into our fall patterns the fishing always gets better. Cooler water is also helpful with any limgering red tide. If you live in Florida keep this in mind as you go to the polls and lets change who is running our state and federal politics. Capt. Tom sr.

Spring 2018

Posted by on May 9, 2018 in Fishing Reports | Comments Off on Spring 2018

Winter is over hopefully for good this time and spring is here. The fishing the past couple of months has been really good when the wind wasn’t howling. The water temps are up again. They were in the 70’s in Feb and then dipped to the low to mid 60’s in March and now are back in the 70’s. The stable water temps make fishing lots better if they stay that way. The fronts are still moving through but not dropping the water temps like they did in March.

We had a great sheepshead seasnon which is coming to an end and the snook and trout are starting to get active. The snook will start to move out on the beach in late April and will be fun to go after. Season on keeping a snook ends May1st. Lately the kingfish have been around and on the move. Here one day moved the next. Its been hard keeping up with them due to wind blowing for a few days then a couple of nice days then back windy again. The baitfish keep the kings in our area but the bait schools have not been consistent yet.


Sharks are showing up real good and will be even more abundant as the water warms and the tarpon start to appear.

Tarpon are on the agenda for May and June and there are still some open dates for booking a trip.

The offshore fishing will get better and better as the red grouper finish there April spawn and start their movement in shallower. There is nothing better than getting these big grouper in closer and having some great eating. The lane snapper will also provide some great eating as well.

Let me know if you are coming this way and lets get out there and have some fun.

Fall 2017

Posted by on Jan 16, 2018 in Fishing Reports | Comments Off on Fall 2017

Fall 2017

Fall is over and winter is here. Its 40 degrees this morning and I am ready for spring and summer already. Fishing this fall has been good however it hasn’t been real busy. I think the hurricanes back in Sept. scared folks away. We didn’t have much impact at all and the edge of the eye came over my house.

The fall fishing was about what we expected. Kingfish, grouper, snapper and trout made up most of the fish on our trips. In these pics we have a near world record Lane snapper. What a beautiful fish and great eating as well. Also a Tripletail, kingfish, red grouper and gag grouper, all are great eating fish.

The cold fronts have started arriving and with them windy conditions. I expect this to continue on into Feb. however on the calm days after the front fishing can be really good. The sheepshead fishing is about to explode and we should have some good eating sheepshead on many of out trips. The mangrove snapper will also bite really good and trout and bluefish in the bay along with spanish macs will be plentiful also.

My March calendar is filling up so be sure and let me know if you want a day in March. Spring Break will be in March and we get slammed during that time so call ahead please. March is also time that the cobia show up each year. April will be kingfish time and then tarpon time is May and June along with snook, grouper, and trout.

I have added some new equipment this past fall with a new Simrad gps and a gps controlled trolling motor with the anchor lock feature. When its not rough no need for the anchor any more. Makes my back happy!!

I hope to see all of you again this year and a very Happy New Year to you all. Capt. Tom Sr.

Fall 2017

Posted by on Oct 5, 2017 in Fishing Reports | Comments Off on Fall 2017

Fall 2017

This summer has ended and we are about to have a great fall. Summer was fun with lots of offshore action, especially with grouper, lane snapper, sharks etc. We also have had a great snook bite all summer.


This fall has started off with great spanish mac and shark action along out beaches. I look for it to get even better as the water temps start to cool. Water temps this summer have been around 90 degrees.

Bait are growing up and getting the right size for grouper and amberjack action as well as fall snook and trout action.

My wife and I also had our 50th wedding anniversary in August. Our daughter threw us a party with friends and a couple of family members. It was a great time and wonderful to see special friends.

Try and get down during the next 3 months for good action and good eating fish. Thanks Capt. Tom Sr.

Spring Summer 2017

Posted by on Jun 15, 2017 in Fishing Reports | Comments Off on Spring Summer 2017


We have had a great spring and now into summer. Spring was great with kingfish, grouper, bonito, amberjack and snook. Summer has started about the same with some great snook fishing and permit along with amberjack.

The following pictures tell the story:






The rest of summer should be good offshore for grouper and amberjack. Red snapper season is open for 47 days this year for charter boats with reef fish permits which I do have. The snook fishing inshore as well as sea trout should continue to be good also. So come on down and lets go after some great fighting fish!!!  Capt. Tom Sr.


Posted by on Jan 13, 2017 in Fishing Reports | Comments Off on Fall/Winter2016

Fall/Winter 2016

Fishing this fall has really been good. Kingfish, grouper, spanish macs and amberjack have been the primary fish caught. The spanish showed up first and we had some days of nonstop action. One trip with 4 guys and it was a fish every bait that hit the water and they were big spanish. We also caught some nice redfish and snook during the fall. Fall is really good for most fish as they like the cooling water.

The kings followed and were in most places offshore but a few areas held a ton of them for about 3 weeks or so. We caught them like crazy on several days along with some big LT’s.

The grouper fishing offshore was also really good. Last year they came in closer to the shore about 12 miles out but this year(2016) they stayed out in about 85 ft. about 25 miles out. It was worth the run because we limited out with nice red grouper along with lane snapper.


The big amberjack have been on fire recently and with clear water you can pick the one you want make a cast and hang on. These fish are so strong and its a ton of fun fighting them. They dont give up but we let all of them swim free to fight again.

The gag grouper season ended on Dec. 31 but due to extremely warm weather they didnt seem to be where I usually caught them in Dec. Now that its getting cold they will come in closer to shore but season is closed to keep any till June 1.

January, Febuary usually is great sheepshead fishing and mangrove snapper. March will bring in the cobia and the red grouper and amberjack will continue to be good out 25 miles. I hate cold weather so I am taking January and Febuary off and have boat maintenance to do. Also getting these cataracs off my eyes. My dad would not get his cataracs removed as long as he could see his bobber go under while fishing. Well I cant see the bait flashing and dimpling like I use to so thats why I am going to get this done.

Spring will be here soon and March is a busy time due to spring break so let me know if you want to book a trip for that time period. Also tarpon season is May and June so dont wait too late. I look forward to seeing you. Capt. Tom sr.

summer/fall 2016

Posted by on Sep 11, 2016 in Fishing Reports | Comments Off on summer/fall 2016

Summer/fall fishing report

This summer has been a fun time with great people. The fish have cooperated on most trips and hopefully it will get even better as we start to have a few cool days.

Summer patterns are usually pretty stable as the rain is usually in the late afternoon. However this summer has been really hot and the water temps have been in the 90’s. It is now Sept. 8 and the water temps have started to cool, especially after the hurricane this past week. Even though it did not hit us we had a ton or rain. Local flooding was a real problem especially on the beaches. I was out there yesterday and people were still cleaning debris out of yards and streets.

I also fished this week and the water was really stirred up and fishing was on the slow side. The bay water was very tannic stained from all the fresh water run off. The gulf waters were murky but should be cleaning up in the next couple of days.

The cooler water will probably fire the fish up as they usually start to feel more like eating as it gets cooler.

We had some really great trips and the pictures tell you what we were catching. It is not always about how many fish we catch but just the experience and fun with getting to know people.




Many of the most memorable trips are with families and watching the interaction between them. One of those trips had two girls, one about 17 and the other about 20 along with their brother and dad. We were catching some nice amberjack and grouper and the girls, Brooke and Bailey, were helping each other lift the rod and reeling. It was fun to watch and they were laughing and grunting as they struggled with some nice size fish. Those trips give me the most enjoyment as it is about having fun and not about filling the freezer. Their brother, Evan, who was about 12 had never caught anything but small bass and wanted to catch something that pulled hard. His first bite was an amberjack that about tore his arms off. That got the day off to a great start and finally had to leave the jacks alone as the 300 lb goliath grouper were eating them while we tried to get them to the boat.



This fall should be good as the kingfish will start their south migration and the gag grouper will move closer to shore. The trout fishing will get better as the water temps fall. I hate winter but the fall is really a great time to be on the water. I hope you will let me know in advanced as I have already booked trips around the holidays. I look forward to seeing you. Capt. Tom Sr.