There are a lot of options open to Nature Coast anglers right now. Inshore and offshore fishing are red hot and should stay that way as long as the weather remains stable.
Recent trips outside 70 feet have produced great catches of grouper, amberjack and mangrove snapper. If you make it out into 90 or 100 feet, watch out for the red snapper. Contrary to fisheries management claims, the red snapper population is exceptionally healthy off West Central Florida. Virtually every angler who fishes deep water comes back with the same reports; red snapper are so thick they have become a nuisance in many spots. It is common to fish on a ledge or rock pile and catch red snapper from 4 to 15 pounds on every drop, making it impossible to catch anything else. Harvest is currently prohibited in federal waters, where they are most common.
Snook, redfish and speckled trout have been active the past week. The reds in particular have been exceptional for the entire spring. Schools of 14- to 22-inch fish have been found along the rocky shorelines in a variety of spots and at least one huge school of oversized reds settled along the marsh grass near New Port Richey last week. Live sardines remain the bait of choice, but avoid live chumming too much. With the extra clear water we have had lately, live chumming is attracting many birds that can scare away shallow water fish. We always start fishing a spot without chumming then toss a few freebies out if the hooked baits do not get eaten soon.