Spring is in the air. The waters are warming up and the cold fronts are in the past. Sea grasses are back, and so is the bait. And large numbers of snapper, snook, trout and Spanish mackerel are abound in the bay.
When targeting in on trout, keep in mind that artificial jigs work best on the grass flats. You can cover much more area in a shorter time and much safer for the release of trout. It is an active approach to finding them, as opposed to the live bait methods, which are more passive approaches. Try a one-eighth oz. jig head with paddle tail or curly tail bodies. Color doesn’t always matter as much as the movement; I do prefer the new penny, tan with gold flakes and red and gold colors.
Live bait or artificials work very well for Spanish mackerel. With live bait, you may choose to use a long-shank, silver hook. This will help eliminate many of the cut-offs we get with the mouth full of teeth that the mackerel have.
Snapper will be moving in and are very aggressive. They respond and school up well with chum, so grab a bag and hang it off the boat to get a mess of snapper for the dinner table. You may choose to use a 1/0 or #1-sized hook, and put just enough weight to keep the bait steady on the bottom. Many times, when chumming, these fish will rise up in the water column, sometimes just right off the side of the boat. You will want to cut some bait in half and chum with them, then put a hook with no weight in a piece and be ready to reel them in.
Snook will be in the passes and steadily feeding on the schools of bait on the flats and pass entrances. Greenies are almost always the bait of choice, as snook will readily crush those little morsels. Fly fishing this time of year is great; the grass that is usually seen on the surface will be at a minimum and allow better retrieval of the fly. I like to use a green deceiver or just a white streamer fly on a 25 lb. tippet. Give it a try. It’s fun, challenging and very rewarding when it all works in unison. Try an eight-weight rod and a weight-forward, floating line.
Get out and enjoy Tampa Bay.