Spring has Sprung!
It’s time to get out on Tampa Bay and enjoy one of West Coast Florida’s best fisheries. Both inside and outside of the estuary, things are firing on all cylinders. For me, the inshore bite for Redfish and Snook has been as good as it gets. Although we are not seeing the large schools of Redfish like fall, our shallow water population is healthy and hungry. Snook have made their way from the Winter time haunts and starting to invade the flats in search of the return of bait fish to the shallows.
For us, a normal day starts with a livewell full of bait and we have made short work of it on most days. Larger bait schools can still be found around the deeper bridges, range markers, and shoals but it will only be a short time before our grass flats are littered with Pilchards and Pinfish again. The net of choice is still a 12 ft ¼” mesh as most of the bait is still on the smaller side but expect that to also change in the coming weeks and we will break out the 3/8” nets for the larger baits.
Once we have a livewell full of bait, we are staging pinch points, creek mouths, and healthy mangrove shorelines for Redfish and Snook. With water temps in the mid 70’s, the fish are staying as shallow as possible, even on the lower tides. As always, my bait of choice is a live pinfish but a 3-5” Pilchard will not be turned down. In the shallow grass, we are using a snap float to keep the baits elevated and in the strike zone. Once the water pushes up into the mangroves, a lot of fish are taking cover and waiting for pray to approach.
Fishing deep in the bushes can be rewarding and I prefer to “tail” hook my baits while free-lining under the trees. One key to remember is keep your rod tip low once you hook up to a fish and negotiate the line beneath the water line to get the fish out. Once they break the cover, square up to your target and bring the rod tip back up, keeping pressure on the fish. This is probably the number one mistake I see anglers make and most of the time costs them a big fish hiding deep in the shadows.
As we trek though March, expect to face some windy days. Take extra caution, especially when out in the deeper stretches of the bay because it can get pretty nasty out there in a heartbeat. There are many days this time of year when we are out catching bait in less than fair conditions and an accident can easily happen when throwing a large net, particularly if you are alone. Be mindful of the weather reports but get out there and have a good time! Give me a call if you want to get on the hot bite and we can accommodate you for everything the bay has to offer.
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.