What's hot: Rivers are starting to heat up. A recent charter had two clients who had done some "urban" fishing with me and wanted to get away from buildings. We have a lot of backcountry in our area, so I took my flats boat to a river that empties into the southern part of Tampa Bay. We caught a variety — two slams of trout, reds and snook in the first couple of hours of a strong outgoing tide. We caught ladyfish and jacks and hung a few baby tarpon. Tides are critical, too. An outgoing tide drains the bays and channels baitfish and other goodies into narrow constrictions where predators await. The tide was high when we began, and the mangrove shoreline had snook and reds in their roots. As the water receded, fish held in the first area of deeper water adjacent to the shore. I could sight-fish redfish and snook by carefully poling the boat with the sun at my back.
Equipment: We used artificial baits, mostly plastic tails on jigs. Scent-impregnated, 3-inch shrimp on a one-eighth ounce red jig head with medium-action spin rods, spooled with 10- or 15-pound test-braided line and 25-pound fluorocarbon shock tippets, worked well. The water is tannin-stained, so our flys included baitfish patterns that had yellow with brown backs in sizes 1 and 2. Bendback fly patterns are perfect around mangroves because they usually will not hang on limbs or leaves with overzealous casting. We did not see another boat that morning.
Pat Damico charters lower Tampa Bay and can be reached at captpat.com or (727) 504-8649.