Spring has sprung!

In the fishing world, spring is here. Fish are staging up in their known haunts a little early this year as a result of the record-breaking heat that we have encountered through late February. Snook, redfish, and spotted sea trout have been providing steady action for my clients over the last few weeks.

Bait has been plentiful around deeper structure in the bay and starting to show up on the flats in some areas. For catching bait deep, use a 10-12 Ft 3/8” mesh net. During the stronger periods of the tide, look for bait on the surface around the range markers and bridges. When the tide is slack or nearing, the bait will sit on the bottom. A good bottom machine can sometimes make a difference between getting bait and not. For the flats, 8-10 Ft 1/4” mesh net will get the job done. Most of the places that are holding bait are high flow areas. Look for birds diving. Pelicans can sometimes be your best friend when searching for bait. Anchoring up current of the target area and chumming will be most productive.

As far as the fishing goes, it’s just like the weather – hot! Snook have made their way out of the rivers and back country hideouts in search of food. Good numbers of fish are being caught with the average being around 22”. Targeting mangrove points and ambush areas have been most productive. Use a live pilchard (greenback, white-bait) for the best results. Snook season opened March 1. Remember that if you plan on harvesting a fish and you are not fishing with a licensed guide, you must purchase a snook stamp from the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC). The minimum size is 28” and the maximum is 33”, which is measured with the tail pinched (TL = Total Length). The bag limit is one per harvester per day.

As of the late, the trout bite has picked up significantly. We have located several areas throughout the South Shore that are holding hungry schools of fish. An incoming tide has been key to catching numbers. Deeper flats with larger pot holes (sandy areas) are good places to start looking for fish. Having a live well full of bait will also add to your success. Being able to chum an area once you have located a few will help keep the bite turned on. Personally, I prefer using a free-lined live bait for trout but there are occasions where adding a float will increase your number of strikes. Remember to slow down a little when you have a fish on, trout have very soft mouth and often times will pull the hook. Loosing the drag on your reel and not pulling with the rod too heavily will help land more fish. Also, if you are not planning to keep a caught trout or it’s too small to harvest, use a de-hook tool or a pair of pliers to get it off the line. They are extremely dependent on the slime coat on their skin.

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Capt. Travis Yaeckel
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.