Jim Shipley holds a 10-pound red grouper he pulled in March 22 about 49 miles west of John’s Pass.
It’s easy to think that if we could just get out of this seven-day cold front trend that the fishing in our area would undoubtedly explode.
There is no question that it would, but on the other hand, we don’t want it to get too hot too quick which would then have an opposite effect. So enjoy it. The weekend weather has been a bit shaky but other than last weekend March wasn’t too bad overall.
Fishing is progressing nicely. We have bait in the area, which is the biggest thing, and our seasonal pelagic species were quick to come back near-shore once the water cleaned up after last week’s front.
Inshore, speckled trout have been bunched up at times as they are entering their peak spawning periods. Free-line live pilchards on the strong part of the tide around sandy drop-offs along many of the spoil islands in the northern reaches of our area. Bottom bouncing soft plastic jigs on a quarter ounce jig head will help you to locate the school.
Redfish are bunched up, and finding a school of hungry fish is simply a matter of moving around spot to spot on the lower tides until a school is located. Sounds easy enough, ha! But in all seriousness they’re out there but just not in a pattern. It seems that if you find a school one day, you won’t likely find them the next. These fish appear to be fresh from the Gulf and are not quite sure where or if they’re going to settle into an area. A combination of cut bait on the bottom right where you think the fish might make their way onto the flat while fishing live pilchards out a bit deeper is a great way to not only pick up trout on the live bait but possibly discover a school of reds which are really keyed in on the cut-bait right now.
Kingfish and Spanish mackerel are going to be high on the list this week, especially by the weekend. Clean water will be the key to the fish returning to near-shore hard-bottom and artificial reefs. Anchoring and fishing with fresh live baits out the back either under a balloon or free-lined into the tide is a low impact way to cash in on this bite. Top baits would include pilchards, threadfin herring, and shad. Fish them on a stinger rig made up with 38-pound wire.
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.