With two weeks of warm weather and predominately east winds, fishing has been spectacular. Bay waters have warmed up, and schools of redfish and large trout have invaded the flats.
Last Sunday, I joined Geoff Szymanski and Capt. Dave Rogers for an early-morning trip to fish the high tide. Capt. Dave fishes on the east coast, targeting huge redfish in Mosquito Lagoon. His website, www.aaahawgwildcharters.com, is littered with pictures of gigantic redfish.
It was interesting to hear his take on our much different fishery. On this day, we showed the west coast has plenty of fish.
We fished near Cockroach Bay, drifting the outside flats and looking for mullet schools in 18 to 30 inches of water. Capt. Dave and Szymanski threw gold spoons, while I fished a DOA Cal on a Bass Assassin jighead.
The water was alive, as mullet were jumping happily along the miles of flats. Stingrays scooted along, a few bonnethead sharks curiously swam around our boat, and pelicans gorged on glass minnows on the deeper flats. Signs of life were everywhere, boosting our optimism.
The fish showed early, as Szymanski hooked a huge trout at 6 pounds within five minutes. Capt. Dave wasn’t nearly as impressed, as he regularly catches trout 6 to 9 pounds in the lagoon. We continued along on the trolling motor, and the redfish soon showed. They started small, mostly lower slot fish at 18 to 22 inches.
As I jigged my Cal through a small pothole, I soon was hooked up with a much larger redfish. As it was netted, Dave said, “That fish is 26 inches and 6 pounds.” We laid it out on the board, 26 1/8 inches and a hair more than six pounds. I guess when you catch thousands each year, you get pretty good at guessing their sizes.
The action stayed consistent, and we continued to work the flats as the tide slowly fell. The mullet moved to deeper water, as did the redfish. We kept on the move and ended the day catching around 20 redfish in four hours.
We started the day fishing about 25 to 50 yards from shore and ended up about 400 yards from shore (to give you an idea of the fish movement).
Szymanski had the week off from work and really dialed in the fish on the same flat. Each day, he headed out and found the fish in a different area, depending on the tide. When he found mullet, the fish weren’t far behind.
To make it more exciting, he started throwing a top water and said the redfish were very willing to chase it down.
On Friday, I headed out fishing about two miles from Szymanski. His crew of three landed an estimated 50 redfish in five hours, while we landed around 25 redfish and 10 trout (the biggest at 25 inches) in four hours. We fished the higher afternoon tides, giving the fish time to move up the flat.
We used only artificials on light leader. The water is very clean, so 20-pound fluorocarbon leader or lighter is recommended.
While Monday will bring a strong cold front, today is a great chance to get out and target redfish in the same manner we did.
Winds will be out of the southeast, so there will be plenty of protected areas to fish such as eastern Sarasota Bay, the Bulkhead, Rattlesnake Key, southern Terra Ceia Bay, or the south shore of Tampa Bay east of the Skyway like we did.
Look for mullet in 1 to 3 feet of water. A weedless gold spoon such as a Capt. Mikes or Johnson Sprite is a great way to cover water and find fish. The tide will be extremely low in the morning, so start fishing deeper and work your way up with the tide.