Is it still legal to run 6 pack fishing charters in Pinellas County Florida?  The answer is yes, as long as the captain complies with CDC guidelines.  This information was supplied by Pinellas County Code Enforcement. Are Tampa Fishing guides staying busy amidst the Corona Virus Pandemic? Yes, but now no...extremely busy through the end of March and then business fell of precipitously. How is the fishing? Based on recent Tampa Fishing Charters, fishing has been somewhere between very good and exceptional.  This is likely a combination of the prolonged closed season on snook, redfish and sea trout combined with an unseasonably warm late March and early April.

Big Kingfish off Clearwater Florida

As is always the case when west central gulf waters warm into the mid seventies, the fishing switch gets thrown and a multitude of species are available to target. As March came to a close, some larger snapper were still being caught on the reefs but this action was starting to taper off.  That being the case, the focus switched to kingfish as decent numbers of fish began to show within just a few miles from shore.  The bite seemed best first thing in the morning on days that had decent tide and wind activity.  On a few outings, waters were glass calm and the bite was short lived.  Slow trolling either of the two available whitebaits, 4 - 6 inch length pilchards and thread fins, around large bait schools, was generally productive.  

Big seatrout activity was extremely good in March both in terms of numbers and size.  It took little effort on most days to catch a couple dozen of these fish in a few hours. The same very large whitebaits used for kingfish resulted in some monster trout.  Temperatures in the mid to upper seventies does usually send the big winter yellowmouths out of St Joseph's Sound however, so expect this incredible bonanza to die down in the next week or two. 

Monster Redfish Palm Harbor and St Josephs Sound

Redfishing was also excellent.  On any decent tide day, catching a dozen redfish was the norm.  The best part was that, on many days, fish exceeding ten pounds were caught...with a few exceptional heavyweights that were probably closer to fifteen. As is always the case with bigger redfish, bait selection wasn't that important but live pinfish seemed to incite the larger fish a little more.  On days when the bite really went off, pinfish approaching "hand sized" were used to try and single out the largest fish. There is no reason to expect this fishing to do anything but get better over the course of the next month.

Spring Snook Fishing in Tampa Bay

Some Tampa Bay Fishing Guides say that "when you hear the whippoorwills, expect the snook to start biting". Whippoorwills have been singing for about three weeks now and sure enough, snook are starting to eat a lot better.  Many of these fish are still in the backwaters but some have made an early return to the beaches and are already being caught out there. To date, large pilchards (and even a few large pinfish) have been catching these fish. Although grass grunts are generally considered a "summer bait, it is probably not too soon to try them as well. If still targeting fish in residential canals and backwaters where structure is available for these fish to get into, using a minimum of 20 lbs braided line is probably best.  If out over the sand, go light with 10 lbs and enjoy the battle.

Good luck to all of you who are feeling significant negative impact from the current Covid 19 Pandemic.....Better times will soon return.



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