Weather right: The beautiful weather we have had lately around the cold fronts has really helped to heat up the fishing. I have been seeing the best action during the warmest parts of the day and the highest parts of the tides, so refer to a good local tide chart before getting out on the water. The next few weeks should be the beginning of some really great springtime fishing.
Where: That's the difficult question right now, and it really depends on what you target. A lot of the snook are still in their late winter spots, as the water has not stayed consistently warm enough for most of them to venture out to their springtime haunts. They are actively feeding, and lively free-lined whitebait has definitely been the ticket. On the other hand, trout have been right where we normally find them in March and April and will eat just about any live or artificial bait. The redfish have been all over as well: Catch them everywhere from miles up the rivers to out on open flats. While the really big schools haven't shown up yet in our region, 20-30 in-slot redfish days have not been uncommon.
Black drum: Another fun target this time of year is black drum. They have been plentiful all over the bay from 2 to more than 60 pounds. Black drum are primarily crustacean eaters, so a well-presented live or artificial crab or shrimp should do the trick. Take extra care with the larger drum, as they are here to spawn and should be quickly landed and released.
Mackerel: No, I am not giving you a forecast for April, they are here now. Find them not only on the markers and main channels, but on the 6-foot contour lines as well. Whitebait on a long shank hook has been the key. These fish often get overlooked but they fight great and cook up pretty good as well.
Bait: I have just begun to see the bait move onto the south shore but your best bet is still the Sunshine Skyway. The south-side fishing pier has been the best and the bait has been easy to net around the pilings and shadows. If bait catching proves difficult, try anchoring and chumming as well as using a heavier net.
Matt Santiago can be reached at CaptainMattSantiago@gmail.com or (813) 205-2327 or at FishingGuideTampa.com.