Joey Drew displays a hogfish and a mangrove snapper he reeled in recently while fishing on a 10-hour fishing trip out of John’s Pass. Hogfish catches are up in recent weeks as the water temperatures increase. Try live shrimp with a 20-pound test line. Grouper and snapper catches are expected to get better as the water gets warmer.
March is when we usually start to see more redfish start to show up. This year, despite all the cold weather, the actions seem to be on track. Schools of fish have been spotted from Tierra Verde all the way north to Tarpon Springs.
The best bite lately has been the afternoon high tides. By 2 to 3 p.m., the water has warmed up a good 5 degrees since sunrise. Typically the schools are more easily targeted when the water is high. This seems to give the fish a sense of comfort, and even if they are spooked, they’ll often come right back to where they were hanging out.
Locating the schools is often more work than actually catching the fish. A productive pattern lately has been to target flats that have plenty of small oyster bars along the mangroves. These oyster bars usually occur on the points of the shoreline and as the current moves in or out, the redfish as well as the mullet will stage up on either side of the point. You can eliminate large areas of fishless water by strictly targeting the points.
Trout fishing remains steady and should only get better as the water begins to warm up. Fishing soft-plastic jigs has allowed us to cover more water in a shorter amount of time versus live shrimp. Drifting along flats drop-offs at low tide has yielded trout up to 22 inches. The key to getting bit is working the jig very slowly. We’re usually targeting the trout first thing in the morning when the water temperature has been running in the low 60s, still a little chilly even for trout. Best color has been a red and gold 4-inch jerk-bait by D.O.A.
This weekend’s weather was decent enough to venture offshore a few miles in search of some light tackle action with some tasty white grunts and hogfish. Using live shrimp fished on a 0ne and a half-ounce knocker rig we targeted ledges in 40 to 50 feet of water. Fishing was good, although the spot-tail pinfish are thick in these depths, requiring quite a few shrimp to withstand the barrage of activity.
Tyson Wallerstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To get a fish photo in the paper, send the photo along with your name, when and where it was caught to editorial@TBNweekly.com or mail it to Tampa Bay Newspapers, 9911 Seminole Blvd., Seminole, FL 33772.