Planning a fishing trip on spring break? The fish are biting

Ethan Kutcher, 11, of Minnesota shows off a 35-inch snook caught with Capt. Jeremy Rzonca.
Ethan Kutcher, 11, of Minnesota shows off a 35-inch snook caught with Capt. Jeremy Rzonca. Photo provided

“It’s been jamming. There’s been a lot of fish and a lot of quality fish too,” Capt. Jeremy Rzonca said excitedly.

Rzonca, and many other inshore captains, have seen an increase in the amount of fish on the flats recently. And that couldn’t come at a better time. With spring break sending potential anglers down from northern states, Rzonca and many other guides have had a busy March scheduled.

“I ran doubles every day this week,” he said, meaning a trip in the morning and another in the afternoon. “There’s been a lot of Minnesota families this week and next week a lot of Michigan. It seems like everyone around here has someone from Michigan booked next week.”

Months ago it didn’t look like the busy times would be returning for local captains anytime soon. The fear of red tide-infested waters lead to concerned calls from potential clients who wanted to cancel trips. Now with the confirmation of clean water and hungry fish, Rzonca has seen some of the best fishing he’s experienced in years.

“Between the two trips each day I’m probably catching 100 to 150 snook,” he said. “There’s also been more redfish this year. Last year I caught maybe eight in two months during the spring. Now I’m getting between three and 15 a day.”

Rzonca said there really hasn’t been one key to his success. He’s been getting bait early in the morning at the Skyway before picking up clients. Then he searches, and nearly every shoreline from southern Tampa Bay to northern Sarasota Bay has had fish on it.

When the fishing slows, he repositions by moving 100 yards or so and the fish turn back on.

“On the low water I’m fishing deep pockets and on the edge of the bushes,” Rzonca said. “When the big tides come up in the afternoon the fish have really been right next to the bushes.”

Another possible reason for the increased numbers of big fish? The closed season.

“It’s cool to let them go. My anglers know we can’t keep them,” referring to redfish and snook. “There’s also plenty of fish we can go catch like snapper and sheepshead that I can send them home with so everyone is happy.”

With the potential cool week ahead, it should also delay the inevitability of fish moving off the flats and toward passes for spring and summer. Look for great fishing to carry on well into April.