By Capt. Travis Yaeckel

With the exception of a few cold snaps, we haven’t had much of a winter. As a result, spring fishing has taken off a bit early and the bay is heating up. Large numbers of Snook are being caught on a daily basis, Redfish are showing up and the Trout are hit and miss here lately. On some of the calmer days, we have made it out to look for some Mackerel and have been successful. There is a lot of bait around and it’s showing up on the flats in pretty good numbers. Just the other day, I saw some smaller pods of threadfin herring out in the bay which means the predators won’t be far behind. Tarpon, Sharks, Mackerel, Kingfish, and Cobia will all be spotted this month around the bay.

Water temps right now in the back country and flats are just about perfect, but look for that to change over the coming weeks as the water will heat up pushing towards summer. My charters will be taking advantage of this and fishing for Snook and Redfish primarily for another month. Snook will be found staged up on open shallow flats on the lower water and feeding around mangrove points on the higher tides and moving water. Pilchards (white bait, scaled sardines) will be the bait of choice, and I prefer a free-line. Redfish are sitting in the deeper pockets on the flats until they have just enough water to get under the mangroves. If you are lucky, good number of fish can be located on the tide transitions moving across the flats. A live pinfish or cut-bait will be my bait of choice, but they will most likely not turn down a fresh pilchard.

Right now, the key is having some good bait. If you don’t know the difference between a threadfin herring and a pilchard, now is the time to learn. When catching bait on markers or deeper areas you will most likely run into these bait fish. Certain times of the year they will also be on the flats. It will not take long to figure out which ones you have as soon as you venture to shallow water. The threadfins will most likely die and any pilchards you have will be kicking strong. Pilchards are much tougher baits and can with stand the process of being caught in the net and recovering, especially when you are “blacking out” your livewell. It’s not all bad though, keep some of the larger threadfins and use them as cut bait. This technique works great on the hotter days or when the tide is not moving much. As we get into Tarpon season, those threadfins will be like gold. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you all about it…

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 Catch him on Tampa Fishing Outfitters Radio Show on Sunday mornings from 8-9 a.m. at 1040 a.m. Sports Talk the Team.