The great fly-fishing angler Lefty Kreh once said, "We fish for Islamorada bonefish to practice for Tampa Bay redfish."
Islamorada bonefish are one of the spookiest fish that can be targeted. Any disturbance in the water, from a bird, a boat or other fish will send them seeking refuge. Comparing them to Tampa Bay redfish shows how difficult our local fish can be to catch, but is it accurate?
In my own non-scientific studies, aka fishing trips, where you fish will largely affect how the fish you are targeting act. With so many no-wake and manatee zones being scattered across bay shorelines, fish in these areas are far less exposed to boat traffic than they may have been five or 10 years ago. But in areas with constant boat traffic away from no-wake zones, fish may eat in spite of the constant barrage of noise.
For instance, I've been fishing the point Rattlesnake Key at times, having boats drive by constantly as they make their way into Tampa Bay, and the snook, redfish and trout don't stop biting. They are most likely used to the boat traffic.
Go around the corner to south Tampa Bay, and there is little chance those snook and redfish will eat unless you are stealthy upon entry and when fishing. These fish see less boat traffic, so the approach needs to change in order to get them to bite better.
Some anglers have started taking advantage of high traffic boat areas. Around areas like Longbar in Sarasota Bay, tower boats are known for buzzing flats looking for redfish schools until they spook up and are found. These fish can be circled around and chummed with live bait and will eat. This practice is effective, which is why there are so many tower boats, but takes away from much of the hunt that is fishing.
Try this technique at the mouth of Palma Sola or shorelines of Cortez, where the no-wake zones now exist, and these fish are gone faster than your boat can come off plane.
Flats fish in low-traffic areas can be extremely difficult to catch, but the reward is often greater when you get them feeding. With no-wake zones spread across so many shorelines I feel it only helps fishing in those locations with healthier grass, cleaner water and, yes, more fish.
I'm not advising running around until you find fish in high-boat traffic areas, just be aware when you are fishing no-wake zones and low boat-traffic locations extra care needs to be taken to stay stealthy to ensure the best chance to catch fish.
Most likely, you won't be fishing today in this cold, windy weather. It's a great chance to head up the coast to Florida's Largest Outdoors Expo at the Florida State Fairgrounds. Today is the last day of the event hosted by the Reel Animals, Billy Nobles and Mike Anderson.
Local and national vendors will be offering deals, making the drive well worth it if you're looking to pick up some gear. Multiple stages will have presenters speaking about all outdoors topics, and new model boats are displayed with special boat show pricing.
For more information, visit tampaoutdoorexpo.com.