Crappie fishing at Lake Manatee has heated back up with the warmer weather we have been experiencing. Water temperatures have come back up into the lower 70s, and that has prompted the crappie to continue their prespawn feed.
I've found the fish have moved around from where we were catching them last month so be prepared to do a little exploring each day until you find a pocket of fish. Ron's Fish Bites and Ron's Zip Jigs in blue and yellow have worked best this past week. Also I have said in the past, and I'll stress again to keep a good lively minnow on the jig or risk getting fewer bites.
I am constantly checking my minnows. If I get one that looks even a little tired, I'll change it out. I go through a lot minnows on a trip, but it sure helps to entice the fish to bite. I like to eat nice fresh food and so do the fish.
Lake Manatee Fish Camp is holding a crappie tournament Sunday in conjunction with its toys for tots day. It should be a good day of fishing and a good party out that way Sunday, and if you don't fish it's for a good cause anyway. They are going to have a lot of activities going on for everyone. Call for info at 941-322-8500.
Capt. Mike Senecal
Anglers fishing with me on my Action Craft flats skiff, the Snook Fin-Addict out of CB's Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key, caught and released trout and bluefish in Sarasota Bay, snook at night in the ICW and tripletail in the coastal gulf on flies during the week of Dec. 2. The best action was fly fishing for snook at night in the ICW.
Patrice Camillieri, from France, fished Sarasota Bay and the coastal gulf with me on Dec. 2 and again on Dec. 5. We fished deep grass flats on both sides of the bay on Monday, where he caught and released trout, including a couple of upper-slot fish, and bluefish on an Ultra Hair Clouser fly. He sight fished a 6-pound tripletail on my Grassett Flats Minnow fly in the coastal gulf with me on Thursday morning and later we moved to skinny water in Sarasota Bay where he caught and released a 6-pound "gator" trout on the same fly! I feel that these big trout, which are mostly females that may be full of roe, are important to the health of our trout fishery, so I release all trout over 20 inches.
Bill Rhodes, from Hernando Beach, snook-fished with me in the ICW on the evening of Dec. 3. He had nonstop action catching and releasing numerous snook to 24 inches on my Grassett Snook Minnow fly. With a good incoming tide, compounded by a south wind and a warming trend following the last front, snook gorged themselves on glass minnows and shrimp. Every once in a while, several factors will align and the bite will be amazing. It's good to be there when it happens!
Rhodes also caught and released trout, ladyfish and bluefish in Sarasota Bay on flies with me on Dec. 4. He understands the advantage of fishing the entire water column and had his fly rods rigged with floating, intermediate and faster sinking fly lines. Bill also has a lot of success fishing tandem flies, a very effective technique for fishing deep grass flats. We fished deep grass flats from 5 to 8 feet on both sides of the bay, and he had steady action including a couple of doubles where he caught a fish on each fly!
Snook season is closed through the end of February on the west coast, but there should be good catch-and-release action with snook around lighted docks at night in the ICW. Use tackle heavy enough to catch and release them quickly and handle them gently. Big trout are moving into shallow water in Sarasota Bay, where you may find them in potholes when the tide is low. Fishing deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay for trout, blues and more should also be a good inshore option next week. Look for false albacore and tripletail in the coastal gulf when conditions are good.
Capt. Rick Grassett
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service Inc.