The late front dampened the bite and sent water temperatures plummeting, so fish were quite confused. Trout remained consistent even with the unseasonably low water temperatures. Whitebait continues to be the bait if choice. Sandy flats with dark spots and deep water nearby seem to be the place to find them. Mackerel are still around and ravenous as ever. They've been in the mix with ladyfish and flounder. Some of the mackerel are smallish, about 2 pounds, but there are some beasts out there that scream drag when hooked; the angler on the other end of the rod is usually good for at least one lap around the boat. These swift fish go where they want. A good starting rig is 15-pound braid attached to a 40-pound leader and a 1/0 long shank hook. If the cutoffs continue and happen on every strike, go up to 60 pounds. Try to avoid using wire; it brings fewer strikes. Snook are improving on the warming trend and the water temperature is climbing. Sardines remain the top bait, but if the fish are there and not eating or just "nosing" the baits, try chunking the bigger ones. Sometimes that works. Some days you work for every bite, which makes you appreciate the days when the bite is strong. Some days you just fish for what is biting best. Tough conditions make for tough fishing. Rewarding strikes make it worth it.
Tim Whitfield can be reached at (813) 714-0889 or [email protected]