Well, it is now safe to say “Spring has sprung!” Fishing in Tampa Bay has been fantastic. The last few weeks, fishing inshore has been as good as it gets for Snook, Redfish and Trout. We have had some beautiful weather and the fish are responded accordingly. Water temperatures have reached a point where these game fish have evacuated their winter time haunts and are in transition to the flats and backcountry mangrove islands. Bait has still not made a big push inside the bay, but by the next report, it should be everywhere.
I have been able to pack the live well full of pilchards (whitebait, greenbacks) first thing in the morning before picking up my charters. Once bait is secured, the job has been pretty easy. As in years past, the Snook are eating everything in sight. We haven’t landed a lot of the giant fish, but we have had several days with over 100 to the boat. If you want action, there is nothing better. The average fish is 20-24”. However, we have been catching significantly more 25-27” than in the last few years—which is great. Our biggest this year is 36” with a dozen or so over 30”. If history repeats itself, this month will produce some bigger fish on our trips. In the areas I guide, along the SouthShore, there is a healthy population of juvenile Snook. As spring progresses, the bigger fish will have more opportunities to get to your baits as the larger schools start to break up and live chumming becomes less effective.
Redfish have started making an appearance. In the last two weeks, we have located some small schools that, if targeted properly, can be very cooperative. Like the Snook, they are going crazy for live pilchards. On the lower tides, we have been catching them on the flats – concentrating on the sandy areas ‘potholes.’ On the higher tides, look for the Reds to be under the mangroves. On the flats, we have been using a large live pilchard under a Cajun Thunder Popping Cork and chumming the area heavily at times to corral them into a small area we are fishing. The average fish has been 24-26” with several 30”+ fish in the mix. Remember to keep a fresh leader after catching Snook. The Reds will test your tackle for sure.
Spotted Sea Trout are still going strong. I expect the bite to continue through spring, but the water temperature and bait migration will play a big part in the areas we will find them. We have started to catch good numbers on the shallow grass flats. As the water temperature increases, the larger aggregations of fish will move to deeper water. The larger ‘gator’ trout can be found roaming the sandbars mixed in with the Mullet and Redfish. Remember that all Trout over 20” must be released as per the FWC in our area until at least Friday, May 10, 2019.