Lake Manatee crappie fishing continues to be dictated by the weather. The strong cold fronts that blew in at the end of last week kept most people off the water.
At the beginning of last week, the crappie fishing started to pick up, and we caught some nice 14-inch fish. The numbers were still down because of many factors, which included the fish being in full spawn mode along with the full moon coming in. The good news is with the warming trend we've had all week the water temperatures are starting to come back up, and the full moon is waning so our fishing should start to get very good.
The majority of fish should have spawned out with this last full moon, meaning they should start to move back to deeper water and start to feed a little better. Last week, the bigger fish we caught were in 14 to 16 feet of water, which was a little surprising as I thought they would have been a little shallower until this full moon past us by. Hot pink Ron's Fish Bites tipped with a minnow has been working for us when we have been able to hit the water. Usually this time of year, the fronts become a little less strong and less frequent so the fishing should continue to improve over the next six weeks or so.
Capt. Mike Senecal
In the past month, we have had our limit on trout just about every day and the biggest problem I have had is getting the trout under 20 inches. The fish I have been on in several different places have also had some snook, reds, flounder, and some Spanish macks mixed in. Just about every day we have had at least one snook in the mid 30" range with a few pushing 40s. This is great to see this early in the season and only means that we are right at the beginning of what's to come!
The hardest and most inconsistent fish have been the reds. I am really hoping that with the warming water temperatures, we will start to see more show up and hopefully some big schools in deeper water where they are harder to find.
Now that this cold water fishing is over and the fish are reacting to shiners, it is time to get down to business. I have already heard that the big schools of bait along with the Spanish mackerel and kingfish are south of us and have moved north up to the 10,000 Island area. It won't be long before they are here. I also heard that the cobia and tripletail are as thick as they get down there too, so this is something else to look forward to. I have a feeling it is going to be a great spring, and I am ready for some crazy action on all the different fish we go after this time of year. Snook season opens up March 1, but we only get two months in the spring to go after them, March and April. I know a lot of you have really wanted a keeper snook and this will be the time.
Capt. Shawn Crawford
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 Spanish mackerel, bluefish and trout in Sarasota Bay, tripletail in the coastal gulf and snook in the ICW near Venice at night on flies and CAL jigs with shad tails during the week of Feb. 10.
Rusty Chinnis, from Longboat Key, and Ben Ford, from Sarasota, fished with me on Feb. 10. With near perfect conditions, we hunted tripletail in the coastal gulf in the morning. We covered a lot of water, found several and they landed two out of three tripletail to 6 pounds on a DOA Shrimp. Just as the sea breeze came up, we headed into the bay, where they caught and released trout, Spanish mackerel and bluefish on CAL jigs with shad tails along the west side of the bay. Anna Maria and Sarasota winter residents Bill Morrison and Gary Marple fished Sarasota Bay with me on the morning of Feb. 11. We fished deep grass flats on both sides of the bay, where they had steady action catching and releasing numerous Spanish mackerel, a few trout and bluefish on Ultra Hair Clouser flies. Burt Benjamin and Elyse Kuhn, both from Connecticut, fished the ICW near Venice with me on the evening of Feb. 11. They had good action catching and releasing more than 15 snook on my Grassett Snook Minnow fly.
Richard Dunn and Steve Garrett, from Colorado, fished Sarasota Bay with me on Feb. 14. They alternated with one fly fishing and the other spin fishing and had steady action with Spanish mackerel to 4 pounds, trout and bluefish on Ultra Hair Clouser flies and CAL jigs with shad tails
Fishing deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay for trout, Spanish mackerel, blues, pompano and more should continue to be a good option. Night snook fishing in the ICW should be good especially during peak tidal flows. Tripletail should also be a good option in the coastal gulf when conditions are good.
Capt. Rick Grassett
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.