By Captain Travis Yaeckel
Spring is around the corner and Tampa Bay fishing will soon come alive. March to early April generally marks the start of our spring fishery for Snook and Redfish. Most of the time, weather will dictate when fishing patterns and seasons truly change. This year, I think our March fishing is going to be excellent. There are a lot of healthy fish around, bait is still abundant, and the conditions have been mild at worst overall.
Snook will certainly be the highlight of many trips in the coming weeks. Large schools will emerge from rivers, creeks, and residential canals to the nearest flats and mangrove shorelines to feed heavily. Once the bait moves in from the depths of the bay to our shallow grass flats, expect to see plenty of Snook lurking around. Pilchards (Greenbacks, White-Bait) will be the bait of choice rigged under a popping cork or free-line. I recommend using 20-30 lb. Ohero fluorocarbon leader and depending on the size of the bait, a 1/O to 3/O Mustad circle hook will get you the best results. Focus on fishing mangrove points and creek mouths where current flow is present. Snook like to ambush their pray and use “eddy” currents and swash points to feed naturally. Snook season opens March 1 and closes May 1. If you plan on harvesting a fish, it must be at least 28” and no greater than 33” in order to keep and you are only allowed one fish per harvester/day. Also don’t forget to purchase your Snook stamp along with your FWC fishing license.
Redfish are starting to show back up in good numbers and the fishing should pickup any day now. Some larger schools have arrived in their normal places. On the right tides, they will provide epic fishing trips and everlasting memories this spring. With the water as clear as it is, most of the fish I have seen and caught have been pretty shallow – sometimes too shallow to take a boat. Unlike Snook they will lurk in inches of water in search of crabs, shrimp, and small bait fish sometimes even in large schools. As the weeks progress, more and more schools will show up on flats and mangrove shorelines – just like the Snook. Look for the best fishing to be on healthy grass flats and concentrate on the pot holes. These are the white, sandy areas peppered along the bottom. On the transitions between tides (incoming or outgoing) Redfish will stage up and feed as its food source is swept across with the tide. They like to lay in the pot holes or edges of grass beds to ambush their meal.
Pilchards will be the most common bait used, but equally as effective is a pinfish. In fact, I prefer pinfish when I am fishing for Redfish. Use the same rig and technique as mentioned above, but you might have to use a larger hook if using larger bait.
Captain Travis Yaeckel is a native resident of the SouthShore area and charters full time for Redfish, Snook, Trout, and Tarpon. He is owner and operator of Instinct Fishing Co.,based out of lower Tampa Bay. To book a charter, call 830-FISH or visit www.fishbyinstinct.com. Catch him on Tampa Fishing Outfitters Radio Show on Sunday mornings from 8-9 a.m. at 1040 a.m. Sports Talk the Team.