Adapt and adjust. Flexibility is the name of the game. With the crazy weather pattern we have been experiencing over the last few weeks, being able to adapt to the conditions can be the difference between having a banner day and going home scratching your head.
Where. On consecutive warm days, I have been fishing my early spring spots and have been doing well on the snook, trout, and redfish. With the water still relatively clear, keeping as far away from the reds and scaling down tackle has been the key to getting more bites. We have been doing the best with either a free-lined rig or under a cork, both rigged with 10- 15-pound fluorocarbon leader and size 1 or 1/0 circle hook. Nose hooking your sardines has seemed to produce the best results, but a jig and soft plastic has helped reach wary redfish, especially when the wind has made casting live bait more difficult.
Cold weather tactics. When it gets cold, I have been moving a bit deeper and found that the trout will move out to find the climate they want. The snook seem to just stay where they are and just slow down their metabolism and eat less. On the colder days, I have been going a bit deeper and focusing on the outside of the long bars that line the southern end of our region. They have been producing a variety of fish and some quality table fare as well. On a recent trip, we caught trout, grouper, flounder, black sea bass, and mackerel all at the same spot.
To chum or not chum. I normally like to chum live bait, but lately I have had more success not. The birds have been much more aggressive than usual and are eating our chummers almost as soon as they hit the water, but the bigger problem is their presence. Fish have been programmed from birth to view birds as predators, and their shadows flying overhead make fish very wary and skittish. Resisting the temptation to chum live baits when birds are in the area and giving a spot a little more time than usual will help to increase your success. When birds are present, cutting baits into small pieces, dropping them off the side of the boat and letting them drift down current has kept the birds from dive-bombing my spots.
Matt Santiago can be reached at (813) 205-2327, firstname.lastname@example.org and online at fishingguidetampa.com.