What's hot: Redfish and snook. A stretch of sunny days has raised the water temperature on the flats to the high 60s and low 70s. The best fishing has been on the low tides before the fish bunch into schools. As the reds move from deep-water spots to the areas they school in on the high tide, they feed actively. Snook tend to feed more actively once they've moved onto a dark bottom and warmed a bit in the sun.
Tactics: Be sneaky. Wade or push your pole as quietly as possible along travel lines. If you know where the fish school on high tide and where the nearest deep water is, the travel line is somewhere near. The fish often travel in depths around the midcalf range, about a foot deep. Trolling motors even on slow speed tends to cut through the sea grass, alarming prey. If you need the trollers, come in early and wait out the fish. Letting them come to you is always a good option.
Tackle: A 9-foot 8 weight or 7-foot medium spinning rod should get the job done. Fly fishers might try No. 1 or smaller dark-bodied flies. I often use flies tied on No. 4 hooks for redfish. For snook try a long shank hook streamer pattern, dark or light until the weather warms. A few great baits for spin casters are Cottee's Cracker Shad jig, MirrOlure's 38M and DOA's TerrorEyz, all in dark colors. Whitebait is still scarce on the flats, but the bottom is covered with small fry baits, so fish small.
Paul Hawkins runs FlatsGuy charters out of St. Petersburg and be reached at (727) 560-6762.