In case you're wondering, springtime fishing has arrived. The now in-season snook are moving out of the backcountry while redfish and trout are feasting on the flats, joining the mackerel, pompano and bluefish that have remained prevalent the past few months.
Oh and bait is slowing starting to appear in its normal springtime locations, with a huge mass currently at the skyway.
Reports from around the bay were great this week. Even after the chilly front came through Thursday, anglers were catching snook and redfish on Friday despite the windy conditions, blue bird skies, and slow tides. This shows fish are coming out of winter ready to eat.
One of the more impressive catches this week comes from Capt. Jason Stock and angler Christy Condron, who landed a huge 30-inch trout fishing near Sarasota Bay.
Condron, who said she had never fished inshore before, thought she had hooked another redfish they had feeding around the boat. "It was pulling drag like the reds," she said. "When we got it in the boat, Jason said this was about as big as trout get. It was the first one I ever caught!"
She didn't even realize the rare feat of catching a 30-inch west coast trout until her picture appeared on the Outdoors360 Facebook page. "I didn't realize how great a catch it was until all the feedback from the Facebook picture, so this has been completely unexpected."
The trout was released to fight another day.
Sometimes a little extra effort can go a long way in catching fish. Stock and many other guides have been going to the Sunshine Skyway to fill up their live wells in the morning before picking up clients. This run can pay off with hungry game fish that are looking for whitebait to eat before the masses of bait hit the flats for the rest of the spring.
Having whitebait on the flats this time of year can be like having a piñata explode at a child's birthday party. When the bait hits the water, fish come in from all around to get a piece of the action.
However, that's not to say artificial methods won't also work well. Hungry fish are willing to eat the plastic and hairy stuff as well. For instance, the 2014 Salty Fly tournament took place Saturday, testing anglers' ability to deceive fish on fly tackle. These big catches on fly show how good the fishing is right now.
The tournament featured 100 boats in a fun-filled fishing tournament that is very unique to this area because it is fly only. The total length of two redfish and one trout determines the winners.
Fishing around Bradenton, winning team Fly4Fishing, or Chris Hargiss and Manfred Pailer, landed 31.75- and 27.75-inch redfish and 25.5-inch trout on fly! That won them first place and $1,500.
For more information and results, visitsaltyflytournament.com.