With early warmth this spring, the expectation was that snook fishing would be on fire by early May but, as this month arrived, fishing was still a little spotty, with high fish count days being the exception. North winds blew every morning for the first week of the month, making temperatures quite comfortable to fish in, but holding water temps in the mid to upper seventies. Although this is certainly warm enough for snook to bite, it seems that once 80 degrees is achieved and maintained, this fishing really hits it's stride. This happened last week and the fishing did respond. The average fish count on the last three Tampa Fishing Charters was 8 - 9 fish. Although not all of these fish were large, a few quality fish over 32 inches typically made an appearance. As is usually the case, numerous spots were fished with little success but then one spot produced well as the fish at this location temporarily turned on, becoming very susceptible to being caught. Most Tampa Fishing Guides prescribe to the theory that deeper areas are most effectively fished with grass grunts where, in shallower locations, whitebaits are typically better received. Grunts will seek the bottom for safely, which is generally where snook hold in a deeper hole or cut. Whitebaits, on the other hand, tend to stay high in the water column, making them a better choice for shallow water, especially if the bottom is covered with weeds. Certainly, there are exceptions to this rule but this is a good guideline. Fishing should only improve over the coming weeks. Those who want to catch the largest specimens should night fish on moving tides with over-sized baits.
Large seatrout remained elusive over the last month. Usually a sure bet to move from St Joseph's Sound to the beaches this time of year, these fish really haven't shown up. The expectation is that they will, but they are already overdue. Large trout are being caught on what are typically considered "inside" redfish spots, but not in great numbers. Some fish are starting to be caught on the beach but the "limit" fishing that can be common at this time of year has clearly not started. Whitebait remains the best choice for these fish.
Redfishing is usually "wide open" from March through June but many Tampa Fishing Guides are finding that there is some work required to catch double digit numbers of this usually dependable species. Most Tampa Fishing Charters have resulted in catches of a half dozen to a dozen fish but finding a school and parking on it has not been the case. Fish tend to be scattered and, on some days, it is the slot fish that are elusive. Most trips yield several fish well over the slot in the 28 - 32 inch category and also some shorts in the 16 - 17 inch range but catching the "good eating size" upper slot fish has been challenging on some outings. Live pinfish and cut pinfish presented both under bobbers and with split shot have been productive approaches.
Tarpon, much larger than the one pictured, are starting to show off of Honeymoon and Caledesi Island for those interested in targeting this large gamefish. Threadfin herring, pass crabs, oversized whitebait and pinfish or grunts are all logical baits to try although it never hurts to leave a dead shad or mullet on the bottom to catch a fish staying down in the water column. The best opportunity at these fish is early morning when east winds typically blow and waters are calm but fish can be hooked at any time during the day. By paying careful attention to the tides and travel patterns of these fish, Tampa Fishing Guides can effectively put their customers in front of decent numbers of these fish.
For a change of pace, try and catch a tasty tripletail, These structure loving fish are typically found hanging out next to channel markers and buoys, pretending to be a piece of weed...until some unsuspecting baitfish swims underneath them for cover. Baits cast anywhere near these fish will typically elicit a strike, as long as fish aren't spooked when the boat approaches. Make sure to cast up-tide of the obstruction so that the free lined bait drifts by naturally. With flesh rivaling that of the hogfish, they make great table fare.
If getting outside and seeing the great outdoors is of interest, contact Canoe Escape and take a canoe down the Hillsborough River. Or, rent kayaks at Caledesi Island State Park and paddle through it's mangrove waterways.
Good luck and good fishing.