Crappie fishing at the beautiful Lake Manatee State Park has continued to be good during the past couple of weeks.
Numbers of fish being taken has dropped off from our outstanding fishing in October through December, which is to be expected with the spawn in full swing this month and next, but we are catching some big slabs to make up the difference for the numbers.
The real challenge has been the weather, with strong fronts coming in one after the other. These fronts bring sharp temperature changes and strong winds, neither of which is good for fishing. Big water-temperature changes and winds that dirty the water have fish with lockjaw for a few days until things stabilize.
The key to fishing this time of year is to be flexible with when you go fishing. Sun-up on Saturday or Sunday may not be as prime as say mid-morning on Tuesday. Watching the weather is critical for me at this time of year. I keep three weather apps on my phone and am constantly on them all day every day and keep in touch with my clients to move them around if it is at all possible to get the best conditions we can for this time of year. We still miss it sometimes, but we try to get prime conditions if at all possible.
Fish are moving around a lot right now with the spawn going strong, so flexibility in this area is key also. Don't assume because you caught fish in one area three days ago that tomorrow will yield a good catch in the same area. Start there, but don't spend a lot of time there if the bites are not happening.
I'm catching nice crappie in areas now that I haven't caught them in all year. The big females are on the move to spawning areas. They are on the move and so should you be until you find them. Stressing the word FLEXIBLE goes for trolling speed and depth of lure, and colors of your lure also are important. Stay flexible, and you may find yourself with a nice cooler of slab fillets as opposed to going home empty-handed. See you on the water.
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 trout, Spanish mackerel and bluefish on deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay on flies and snook, trout and flounder in Gasparilla Sound on CAL jigs with shad tails during the week of Jan. 4.
Keith McClintock and Victor Feldman, both from Illinois, fished Gasparilla Sound near Boca Grande with me on Jan. 5. Action wasn't fast, but they caught and released trout, flounder and a couple of snook on CAL jigs with shad tails.
Cooler air settled in on Jan. 6 as a reinforcing front moved through, when Anna Maria Island and Sarasota winter residents Bill Morrison and Gary Marple fished Sarasota Bay with me. They caught and released trout, bluefish and ladyfish on Ultra Hair Clouser flies over deep grass flats on the west side of the bay.
Trout, blues, Spanish mackerel, pompano and more should be good options on deep grass flats of Sarasota Bay. Look for reds and big trout mixed with mullet schools on shallow flats and edges of bars. Afternoons may fish better than mornings when water is cool.
Capt. Rick Grassett
Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.