By: Captain Danny Guarino
April and spring is in full swing and what better place to be than in central Florida. April brings the best fishing of the year to our area of Tampa Bay. As the water temperatures rise into the 80’s we should see Snook on their way to their spawning areas of May, June and July, redfish schooled up on the flats, trout on the deeper grass beds and Spanish mackerel just about anywhere on Tampa Bay.
Catch Reports of trout have been coming in all week. Try fishing the deeper grass just off the sand bar that parallels the shore from the Little Manatee River south to Port Manatee. Scaled sardines is the bait of choice however, a big shrimp hung under a popping cork may work just as well.
The Southsore area is holding small schools of Redfish scattered inside the sand bar from Apollo Beach south to Joe Island. These schools have about 10 to 15 fish each. They seem to be spooked by boat traffic running up and down the flats inside the sand bar. If you can, please run your boat on the outside of the sand bar in the deeper water this will take the noise off the flats and give the redfish a chance to school up. Look for red fish in the schools of mullet that roam the area. Pin fish and Scaled Sardines will work best for this prize fish.
Spanish mackerel started moving into the bay back in early March and by Mid-April we should be hearing some good catch reports. Again, scaled sardines will be the bait of choice. I like to free line my baits with an extra-long # 1/0 J-hook. Hang a frozen chum bag over the side to help call in the fish.
The Snook bite has been very good throughout March; however, we are not catching many that are over 26 inches. Snook season is closed on the South West Florida coast so if you catch one please handle it with care and return it to the water, this will help the snook population continue its rebound from the 2018 red tide that killed many of our prized fish. A lot of the snook that we are catching now were hatched after the 2018 season. One more year and we should see more fish within the harvest slot of 28 to 33 inches.
This time of year, I like to mix things up by targeting Snook, Redfish and Trout on the flats during the incoming tide and try my luck for Spanish mackerel in the open Bay waters. White bait/scaled sardines will be my bait of choice.