That time of year is here again. As spring gives way to summer, Tampa Fishing Guides change their focus a bit. While sea trout were an important part of the equation a month or two ago, greater effort is now directed at snook. Ironically, it is while snook fishing that the biggest trout are still caught as they frequent the same cuts and holes near local passes. Although sea trout numbers have dropped, the chances of catching a large fish still exist. Fish capable of pulling drag may be found mixed in with snook, and can initially be mistaken for them.
Although trout are entertaining to catch and good to eat, there is something about the reel emptying, drag screaming runs of an over-sized snook that is hard to beat. As there are no snags to speak of out on the beach, 10 lbs test is used to catch fish weighing 15 pounds or more. Two characteristics of the snook make them a little trickier to catch than redfish or trout. First, once redfish and trout are found, nine times out of ten they will bite. Snook, on the other hand, may patiently watch baits drift over their heads for 20 - 40 minutes before deciding that NOW is the time to eat. This being the case, a normal practice on most Tampa Fishing Charters is to set up and patiently fish a group of fish. Expecting to consistently pull up on groups of fish and "get bit", although it does happen, is not realistic. Plan to put in the time. The second characteristic of snook fishing that can make them a little more difficult to catch is the way they bite. Certainly, there are times when a bite is immediately following by a blistering run but, in many cases, a snook will inhale a live bait and, having not felt the hook, will simply sink back down to the bottom to enjoy it's dinner. In this case, the only indication of a bite is the "tick"....the firm
bump felt when a bait is initially inhaled. Skilled snook anglers know this bite very well, but for the novice, it can go undetected. Like most other animals, a snook has no desire to go run around after eating a bait. It would prefer to relax and savor it's meal. As a result of these above two characteristics, many angler believe that it is difficult to get snook to bite. The fact of the matter is that snook will bite with reckless abandon for short periods of time. Tampa Fishing Guides put in a lot of hours to know where and when this will happen.
As the current begins to slow and the tide heads towards it's higher phase, redfish will push into the shallows to harvest their favorite and most dependable meal item...small black crabs. As these crabs are found in predictable places...oyster bars, mangrove shorelines and residential docks, it is these locations that are targeted on most Tampa Fishing Charters. A variety of crabs represent great redfish baits but may be difficult to secure in numbers, so most redfish wound up being caught on pinfish or whitebait. Fortunately, redfish rarely refuse a meal. With that said however, it is almost impossible to clean a redfish and not find any crab remnants. Larger redfish will have small to medium blue crabs, stone crabs and even larger spider crabs in their gut. Red-fishing has been reasonably productive on the strong tide phases with 6 - 12 fish being the norm in terms of numbers. Large amounts of 22 to 24 inch fish seem to be present in St Joseph's Sound but every other day or so a heavy weight from 28 to 32 inches will show up. A few snook have made surprise appearances back in the mangroves while redfishing. Larger specimens provide a unique challenge and, unlike redfish who just seem to pull against resistance on the rod, snook seem to have an uncanny ability to know where structure is and to find it. Large schools of redfish have remained elusive so work has been required to locate enough singles and small groups of fish to keep rods bent.
Tarpon, a fish that is normally targeted at the mouthes of our major estuaries...Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor...have been showing in better and better numbers off of local beaches and do represent a viable target. A variety of techniques can be used. Posting up early morning along the beaches in known "tarpon highways" and putting out baits is one technique. Another is floating off of the beaches in the hopes of seeing a group of fish and them trying to put the boat in position for a cast. This approach can be counterproductive however as motoring too close to groups of fish or actually chasing fish is sure to put them in a non eating mood. The last technique would be drifting local passes as fish will move in and out of the intercostal on a daily basis. Fish are commonly seen but do require work and persistence to hook.
Other interesting options for outdoor activities this month include visiting Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida. A variety of big cat species, including lions, tigers and cougars can be viewed up close. If a beach environment is of more interest, check out Egmont Key. This small island at the mouth of Tampa Bay is both a historical site and wildlife refuge. Fort Dade was built here during the Spanish- American war to protect the mouth of Tampa bay. Egmont is well worth a visit. Good luck and good fishing.