Somebody turn the fan off!
As expected, the end of February brought some cooler temps and North winds to make plenty of days challenging on the water. The lack of cold fronts through the first of the year had our inshore gamefish pushing towards the flats in Mid-February. On certain days, the strong North winds and low tides can make it difficult to get to fish and sometimes even find them. Regardless, we have still managed to stay on a consistent bite and keep the rods bent. On the other hand, as we approach March you can expect to see a warming trend and really ignite the Spring bite in Tampa Bay.
Although the last few weeks, bait has been tough to find – there is a lot around. Some of the local range markers and reefs are holding large masses of bait and as the water temps on the flats increase, these aggregations will move into the shallow grass flats. When this happens, the gamefish will be there to feast on this migration.
If you are looking for Snook, focus on the deeper cuts around exterior mangrove islands during the stronger periods of the tide cycle. On the lower tides, target the larger potholes (sand holes) on the flats adjacent to the mangroves. In general, if you find a few fish – there is a lot more around. Especially in early Spring, large schools of Snook will stay together during their transition from the backcountry to the flats.
Redfish will be found roaming healthy grass flats on the lower tides and be looking for deeper cover once the tide gets up in correlation to the water temp. As the water temperatures rise, fish will begin to use the deeper areas and shadow lines to keep cool and ambush prey. One of my favorite baits this time of year is a live Pinfish. One trick I like to do is find a deep mangrove shoreline and let the bait “run” up under the trees. If you hook up, make sure to keep your rod tip low and apply side pressure until you are able to pull the fish out. You would be surprised how many big Redfish are lurking deep in the bushes!
Speckled Sea Trout will begin to stack up in the heavy grass on the flats. In the coming weeks, any healthy flat will have good numbers of fish. Flow and bait will be the key in finding them. A good starting point would be near the areas you typically catch your bait. That seems basic but most people catch bait in an area and travel a large distance away to fish. Large aggregations will position themselves in an area with an abundance of food. They are a fast-growing fish and generally reside in good numbers. They need a plentiful food source to keep them around.
We are looking forward to the warming trend ahead and the official kick-off to 2020 Spring fishing. It’s the time of year that most fisherman look forward too. Whether it’s the hunt for that trophy fish or catching a fish on every cast – now is the time. Get out there and enjoy the Saltwater.
The Suzuki Repower Fishing Report is sponsored by Suzuki Repower and Mastry Engine Center.
Stay dialed-in to what’s biting in Tampa Bay! Capt. Travis Yaeckel, Capt. Jason Prieto, Capt. Ric Liles, & Danny Guarino bring you the full report each week. Listen every Sunday Morning 8-9am on 1040AM ESPN Sports Talk Radio. Watch LIVE on Facebook and YouTube every Wednesday 6-7pm. Or download the podomatic app on your phone or tablet and listen anytime. Search “ Tampa Fishing Outfitters Radio Show “ to follow us and find current and past shows.
Read some of Capt. Travis’ other recent posts for Old Salt including: The Hunt For Red October