What's hot: Warmer weather and higher tides have led to great redfishing in north Pinellas County waters. Schools of these bronze bruisers are pushing onto the flats to feed as the tides rise. Lower tides around new and full moons have led to these fish tailing aggressively at first light and feeding on crabs and crustaceans among the rich turtle grass. Stealth and long casts are the only way to reach these tentative fish. As the tide gets near its crest, redfish will hunt along the mangroves and many oyster bars that cover the larger barrier islands. A silver dollar-sized pinfish under a slip cork has produced best results when floated into the strike zone and popped regularly to help draw attention. Look for openings in the mangroves to allow a cast farther into the shady regions where reds will ambush meals more often. Silver spoons with white bucktail trailers also have worked well casting into the many mullet schools roaming the shallows in the 2- to 3-foot depths.
Schools of black drum in the 40-pound class have invaded area flats and oftentimes are feeding around the many crab traps inshore of major passes. "Muds" caused by these large schools feeding can be detected by the obvious change of water clarity. Half blue crabs or scented plastics work well when allowed to soak in the frenzy of these massive fish.
Tips: As spring approaches, many anglers are getting their bait nets ready for use. After a long winter, nets will stiffen up and not spread as easily. To alleviate this, try soaking the net in a 50/50 mixture of fabric softener and water overnight to loosen it up — which in turn makes the net open better.
Jim Huddleston charters out of Tampa, Palm Harbor and Clearwater and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 439-9017.