Warming waters and an abundance of bait have produced some of the best fishing opportunities of the year.
Large schools of prespawn trout have gathered and are eating nearly everything thrown in front of them. Live baits or artificials, they're biting it all.
On low tides these fish are concentrated in potholes and channels near flats. Try throwing live baits into these areas during the falling part of the low tide. When the tide switches they push into shallow water.
For redfish, low tides mean tailing. On the first of the incoming tide try in about a foot of water.
If you have a shallow-draft boat with a poling platform you can work into that depth with a push pole. If not you'll probably have to wade, but it's worth it. Either way stealth is imperative, because fish in shallow water are spooky.
When you find a tail or waking fish, cast with a lead of 5-6 feet. Any topwater plug, weedless gold spoon or a greenback should get the job done.
On high tides look for reds to move under overhanging mangroves or into weed patches. Usually schools of 10-20 fish will bunch up in areas where an oyster bar sprouts from beneath overhanging mangroves or out of sawgrass.
One method to find these schools is to idle about 10 feet off the edge of a mangrove shoreline at high tide. When you find a school, turn around and anchor within casting distance of where you spotted them. Generally it takes 10-15 minutes for fish to settle down, but usually they'll return to the same spot.
Once you locate the fish, try 10- to 12-pound monofilament or an equivalent braided line. This is a good time to present baits beneath corks to make sure baits don't stray from the strike zone within 5 feet of the branches.
If a fish strikes and runs into the mangroves, dip the rod tip into the water until you get the fish out of the mangroves. That's one of the reasons they make rods 7-8 feet long.
Snook fishing has been outstanding. Most of these fish are seeing whitebait for the first time this year and just can't resist it. As tides get stronger with the approaching moon phase, snook will begin to feed aggressively. Targeting linesiders on the first of the outgoing tide will produce the best results.
The grouper bite also has picked up. Gags consistently have moved shallower, making them more accessible. They have also become more aggressive over the past few weeks, so live baits will begin to outproduce dead bait.
What promises to be an excellent kingfish and Spanish mackerel run is starting. Trolling lures over hard bottom and artificial reefs should produce good numbers. Slow-trolling live baits or suspending them near the surface will produce the largest fish.
No matter which species you target, you have an excellent chance at catching it. The fishing is so good inshore you might as well target snook, trout and redfish all at once for an inshore slam.
_ Capt. Pete Katsarelis charters out of Tarpon Springs and can be reached at (727) 439-3474 or by e-mail at inshoreadventureaol.com.