Early Spring Action. It seems like the fish never really got into a strong wintertime pattern, which made trips the last few weeks range from mediocre to amazing. The good news is, barring any serious cold fronts, the fishing will soon get really good and much more consistent. It was great to get through a winter with virtually no snook loss, and I think 2012 will be considered a great snook comeback year.
Inshore. Redfish and trout fishing have been really strong around last week's low tides. Fishing a live shrimp under a popping cork on deep grass flats is producing great trout. Last week we saw several gator trout over 25 inches come to the boat. The trout have been pretty concentrated as well, so if you catch one or two you can bet there are plenty more around. Drifting a flat and stopping when you get a bite or two is a great way to locate the big schools of trout.
Redfishing has been hot as well. Fishing clear shallow flats on the higher part of the tides has been producing great results. The redfish move up shallow as the sun heats up the water and they have been reacting well to artificial's worked erratically across the flat. The clear water has made the fish a little spooky, so focus on being stealthy and making long cast. I find that getting out of the boat and wading this time of year allows you to get much closer to wary fish.
Offshore. Offshore the action has been nothing short of awesome. The mangrove snapper and grunt bite has been off the charts inside of 60 feet. Anchoring and lots of chumming has been the key to getting them fired up. The amberjack fishing has been red hot on virtually any structure from 60 to 120 feet. Any live bait free-lined or dropped to the bottom is almost guaranteed to get hammered by a hungry amberjack. Our last offshore trip also produced over 10 keeper-size scamps, a welcome surprise.
Bait. Watch for the fish to start transitioning to their spring hangouts, especially if we don't get any more serious cold fronts. Shrimp is still the hot bait inshore, but if you are set on getting yourself some whitebait for your well, then head to the Skyway. The bridge is loaded, no chumming required, just get up current of the bridge and look for the bait to be holding close to the pilings or cruising the shadow lines.
Capt. Matt Santiago can be reached at (813) 205-2327 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The website is fishingguidetampa.com.