Saltwater fishing around the lower Tampa Bay area the past couple of weeks has been outstanding with a variety of fish feeding on anything thrown their way.
As water temperatures climb into the mid-70s, fish feel more comfortable leaving behind their wintertime homes and slow-feeding and lethargic ways and get into a feeding frenzy to bulk back up for their move onto the flats and to the passes.
White bait is starting to move onto the flats, and this really puts the fish into the feed mode. All of this results in a great time for fishermen looking to put fillets in the freezer. Snook have been the most active fish for us as my clients have had steady action reeling in the hard-fighting fish. Most snook have been slightly under the slot size of 28 to 33 inches but are still a great time to catch and release. We have been getting a few snook in the slot and even have had a few over the slot.
Redfish for us have been a little spotty with some days catching some nice reds and other days not catching any. We did get a nice 33½-inch redfish this past week that made my angler happy. After some nice pictures, it was awesome to see this beautiful fish swim away no worse for the wear. Trout have been big and fat and very willing to attack anything thrown in front of them. Ed Kieffer of Bradenton was able to boat a nice 27½-inch trout this week for a best trout of the week. Again after some nice pictures this fish was released unharmed.
I try to get my clients to release all trout more than 20 inches as these trophy fish are our big breeder fish. I wish all the local tournaments would do the same to preserve this great tasting fish, but unfortunately this is not the case. There are still some tournaments out there with archaic rules that target and kill these trophy fish to bring to the scales. Shame on them.
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 snook, reds, trout, bluefish and Spanish mackerel in Sarasota Bay and Gasparilla Sound on flies, CAL jigs with shad tails and DOA Deadly Combos during the week of March 31. Shallow-water action with reds, snook and big trout turned on and a couple of anglers scored slams.
Jake Harms and his dad, Randy Harms, both from Toledo, Ohio, fished the east side of Sarasota Bay with me on March 31. They had good action with trout, bluefish and a nice Spanish mackerel on Ultra Hair Clouser flies and CAL jigs with shad tails.
Jeff Wolber, his young son, Will, and friend, Cam, all from Cincinnati, Ohio, fished deep grass flats on both sides of the bay with me on April 1. They had good action catching and releasing trout and Spanish mackerel on CAL jigs with shad tails.
Nick Reding, from Longboat Key, and Mike Perez, from Sarasota, went on a redfish mission with me on April 2. We waded and fly-fished a couple of shallow flats on both sides of the bay and caught and released a few trout and a bluefish on my Grassett Flats Minnow fly. Mike caught and released the fish of the day, a 33-inch red, on a Clouser fly!
Bill Beauchamp, from Bradenton, and Doug Manning, from Largo, fished Sarasota Bay with me on April 4. We fished shallow and deep flats on both sides of the bay where they had good action catching releasing trout, Spanish mackerel, snook and a red on CAL jigs with shad tails. Bill caught and released a nice snook and then followed it with a big trout on a CAL jig with a shad tail. I think it's very important to release big trout since they are usually females that are full of roe. This one was a perfect example, 24 inches and weighing 5 pounds due to a belly full of roe. With 2/3 of a slam under his belt, we fished hard for a red. He hooked one only to have the hook pull, so we went into overtime and he completed his slam with a 27-inch red to end the day!
If you're interested in learning how to fly-fish, there's still time to sign up for the next CB's Saltwater Outfitters Orvis-Endorsed Fly Fishing School, which will be on April 12th. The class, which will be the last one until fall, will cover fly casting basics, shooting line, the roll cast, leader construction and saltwater fly fishing techniques. Contact CB's Saltwater Outfitters at 941-349-4400 to sign up.
Tides will improve toward the end of the week as we approach a full moon on April 15. Look for reds, snook and big trout on shallow flats or edges of bars in Sarasota Bay. Fishing deep grass flats for trout, Spanish mackerel, blues, pompano and more should continue to be a good option. There should also be good action in the coastal gulf with Spanish and king mackerel, false albacore (little tunny) and tripletail depending on conditions.
Capt. Rick Grassett
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.