With the arrival of May, just about every type of inshore game fish targeted by Tampa Fishing Guides is available. Trout have left their winter locations along spoil islands in the inter-coastal waterway but aren't far away....having settled along local beaches. Redfish are now here in solid numbers and, on some days, Tampa Fishing Charters are rewarded with fish after fish in the 23 to 26 inch range. With water temps already having flirted with eighty degrees, snook are on the beaches and starting to eat with some regularity. Tarpon will be rolling by for the next two months and will be available to those patient enough to set up in their travel lanes and wait for their passage. In summary, Tampa fishing is at it's peak and will remain so until summer's real heat shows up in mid to late July.
Trout fishing is excellent right now with multiple 20 inch plus fish available on just about every trip. Medium sized whitebaits are the ticket as the magnum pilchards used for snook can often be tough for all but the biggest specimens to get their teeth around. Free lining these baits in swash channels is the most productive method for filling a limit. In many cases, these larger trout will be seen breaking the surface in an attempt to eat a bait. Be patient and wait for the actual pull as a single trout may boil 2 - 3 times before actually inhaling the bait. Return the pull with a hook setting tug and a nice trout should be headed for the net. These fish will remain on the beaches all summer but, by the end of May, many of the larger fish will be gone. Should you be fortunate enough to catch a true gator of 25 - 27 inches, give some strong consideration to releasing this fish. Releasing big fish insures more big fish in the future and these large trout don't tase any better than the 15 to 23 inch fish.
Snook will often be found in these same swashes waiting for a frisky whitebait to swim by. Strikes by these fish will typically be followed by a scorching run.... one of the main reasons snook are such a popular game fish. Sometimes, a fish will swim dead at the boat and other times they'll run themselves right up on the beach in an attempt to eliminate that pain in their lip. Although the response of a hooked snook will vary, the first 30 seconds are always exciting. As snook gather to spawn in the passes during this time of year, it's a safe bet that large groups will be found in close proximity. Structures to search near these passes include any deep swash or run, especially one that receives decent current flow, as well as any rocky outcropping or jetty. Water is often "gin" clear along the beach and it's common to be able to cast to sighted fish. Finding fish is actually not that difficult. Tampa Fishing Guides know that the real secret to catching large snook consistently is to identify when the various groups of fish will eat. In areas where there is current, the answer is almost always when tidal movement is strongest...but it may be an hour after high tide or two hours before the high tide depending on the location. Once several groups of fish are located and their feeding habits determined, consistently catching these fish can become a reality. On most successful Tampa Fishing Charters for snook, the majority of the fish are caught in a short period of time. It's not uncommon to fish a group of fish for twenty minutes, get no bites and then hook 6 fish in the next half hour, only to have the fish immediately stop biting again. . On some days, fish will bite for an extended period of time but this is the exception.
Tampa Fishing for redfish was productive during the last high tide phase in April, with schooling redfish located on several charters. Fish were all mid to upper slot size with several over the slot. An effective approach used by many Tampa Fishing Guides is to search out the mullet schools and then fish through them. The technique is as follows. Position the boat thirty yards away from a mullet school,and then make long casts that just reach into the school. If, after 5 minutes, there is no activity, the boat is moved up 10 yards and baits re-deployed deeper into the mullet school. This behavior is repeated until either a group of redfish is located or the other side of the area showing mullet activity is reached. Although this approach requires a fair bit of patience, it is a highly effective method for stealthily approaching a school of redfish on a flat. The reward can be "TV fishing"...that is, catching a fish on every cast as is commonly seen on TV fishing shows. When fishing in this manner, using a bait that isn't easily removed from the hook by pinfish, such as a chunk of pinfish or ladyfish, is highly effective. Using a split shot to hold the bait in place is also a good idea as then numerous baits can be cast on to a given flat and they will all hold their position...assuring good coverage of the flat.
This month's report would not be complete without mention of a freak catch. Fishing for kingfish 7 miles out of Clearwater, a small iridescent tail popped up 5 yards behind the motor and ate a small whitebait. Although small for it's species, this 20 lbs sailfish put on a good show and made for a very interesting Tampa Fishing Charter. The beauty of fishing, especially in salt water, is that one can never be sure what will show up on a given day. Good luck and good fishing.