By: Captain Danny Guarino
As March rolls in we begin to see the Snook population move out of the rivers and into their springtime spots. With the cool weather of January and February the snook migration is just about on schedule. Catch reports of snook have been encouraging this past fall and are at or near levels of 2017. This is a good indication that snook are continuing their rebound after the 2018 red tide fish kill. Snook season closed inthe southern region of the state but opens north of Broward county on the eastern Florida coast. Please check with the Florida Wildlife commission for particulars.
Red fish and trout should be up on the flats and I do expect the bite of big trout to be off just a bit. Look for grass beds in the 3-foot ranges. The Southshore flats should also hold a few schools of Redfish if we keep the boat traffic off the grass and on the outside of the sandbar that lines the shoreline on the eastern side of Tampa Bay. Running a boat on plane on top of a school of redfish is a sure way to drive the fish out of the area. Look for the reds in the schools of mullet that roam the area. Shrimp or scaled sardines will be the bait of choice for these springtime favorites. Redfish are also closed in the Southern region so catch and release is the name of the game.
We should start to see a few cobias along the Southshore. Look for cobia moving near the many rage markers that are placed throughout Tampa Bay. Try using pin fish for bait and use a little heavier tackle. Some of these fish will be in the 30 to 60-pound range.
Sheepshead fishing has been excellent this last month and I expect that trend to continue through March. I use small live shrimp for bait using a # 2 hook. I’ll set up in an area that has structure and just drop the bait over the side. I like doing this in deeper areas. Just drop your anchor on the outside edge and up tide from structure. It is very important to be patient and do expect to use a lot of shrimp.
White bait (scaled sardines) have been a bit scarce this winter but I expect to see them migrate to the grass flats as the water temperatures begin to rise. Look for the big bait pods to arrive later in March along with the schools of Mackerel. In fact, a few catch reports of Spanish mackerel being caught at the mouth of Tampa Bay have been popping up sense mid-February.
This time of year, I like to mix it up by targeting Snook in the passes, redfish and trout on the flats and a few mackerel out in open water. White bait will be my bait of choice.
Capt Danny Guarino a lifelong resident of the Tampa area and semi-retired fishing guide on Tampa Bay. 813-956-2010
Capt. Danny Guarino D.R. Guarino Charters
Photo credits Capt Danny Guarino with a Tampa Bay Snook