April already, and spring is in full swing. By Mid-April snook should be on their way to their spawning areas of May and June. This year we have seen snook in numbers that mimics the snook population just prior to the red tide fish kill of 2018. The robust rebound of the snook population can be attributed to the Florida fishing regulations put into effect in 2018 when they mandated a closed season on Snook, Trout, and Redfish. These regulations will be reviewed by the Florida Wildlife Commission in the latter part of this year, and we all are hoping for good news so that the season can open. For now, it is just catch and release.
Sea Trout will be up on the flats from the Mouth of the Little Manatee River south to the Skyway Bridge. The trout action in March was on the slow side, but I am confident that as we get into April, this will improve. Look for grass beds in the 3-foot ranges. Scaled sardines will be the bait of choice; however, a big shrimp hung under a popping cork may work just as well.
Capt. Jason Preito has reported seeing some nice cobia on the deeper grass flats at the southern end of the Southshore grass flats. The best bet for cobia is to sight cast a big, scaled sardine or pinfish right in front of the fish. Hold on and use a little heavier tackle; there are some 50 pounders out there.
The Southshore flats are holding scattered small schools of Redfish. Look for the redfish in the schools of mullet that roam the area. Pinfish and Scaled Sardines will work best for this prize fish. Keeping the noise level down on your boat will improve your odds of catching these great fish.
Spanish mackerel started moving into the bay back in early March, and by early-April, we should be hearing about some good catches. Again, scaled sardines will be the bait of choice. I like to free line my baits with an extra-long # 1/0 J-hook using a 50-pound test Fluorocarbon shock leader.
This time of year, I like to mix it up by targeting Redfish, Snook, and Trout on the flats and Spanish mackerel in open Bay waters. Whitebait will be my bait of choice and is readily available on the SouthShore flats.
If you can, get out and enjoy this great place we live in. The Southshore has some of the best fishing Florida has to offer but remember it is not the number of fish you put in the fish box that makes a successful trip. Measure your fishing success by the number of smiles you receive by going fishing.
Capt. Danny Guarino a lifelong resident of the Tampa area and a semi-retired fishing guide on Tampa Bay. If you are looking to hire a Charter Captain in the Tampa Bay area, give Capt. Danny a call. He has an extensive network of long-term proven Tampa Bay Fishing Guides; all are insured and licensed. Let Capt. Danny take the guesswork out of finding a fishing guide.
Be safe out there.
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