BACKCOUNTRY / BAY / INSHORE:
With the waters warming up, the tarpon have started to show up early. I’ve seen some schools numbering over 30 cruising down the beach. They are finicky and very spooky. The best option is to find a school and then move ahead and get set up. Large white soft plastic will work great but it’s hard to beat a live bait. Remember that tarpon fishing is a lot like cobia fishing because of the fact that it is a high risk high reward target. Sometimes you will see plenty of fish and they will chew the bottom of the boat off. Other times, even when you think conditions are perfect and your baits are ideal, you won’t see a fish or they will have lock jaw. The other side of that coin is that if you catch one it’s hard to beat the feeling. In the bay and on the flats the speckled trout and redfish are on fire! Large schools of slot reds are working the shallow grass flats and docks, and the larger bull reds are being caught in the pass and under the big bridges on the outgoing tide. If you’re after trout, hit the flats at daylight and dusk. They are aggressively hitting top-water lures during those times. If it’s the middle of the day and the sun is high, target the grass and potholes in 4 ft or more with soft plastics or suspending lures. Of course live bait will increase your chances. Live shrimp, mullet, pinfish etc. will all get the job done. Flounder can be found in some of those same potholes the trout are cooling off in as well as most sandy ledges. Bull minnows, tiger minnows, and shrimp will put them in the cooler. Sheepshead and mangrove snapper are thick around the structures in the bay and the jetties in the pass. Small bottom rigs with a small shrimp or piece of shrimp on light tackle works best. On the beach, the pompano are feeding in the beach break on sand fleas. Pompano jigs tipped with a piece of cut bait, bounced along the bottom, should do well.
OFFSHORE: Lots of red snapper and gag grouper are being caught on the wrecks and structures but you will have to wait another month to keep them. Until then, there is still plenty going on in the Gulf. Amberjack season is open along with triggerfish, both of which are incredible fighters and both are good eating. You can also catch plenty of big mangrove snapper, and scamp. Don’t forget to have that flat-lined live bait ready if a king mackerel or cobia shows up under the boat. If you come across any type of floating structure, take a good look, it may be holding anything from dolphin to cobia to tripletail, all of which you definitely want on your plate. Otherwise, trolling for dolphin, king mackerel, and wahoo are very effective right now. Always check the updated regulations before you go because they are ever changing and nothing ruins a good day on the water more than a ticket.
The weather is perfect this time of year and the summer crowds are not here yet so take the opportunity to spend some quality time on the water with friends and family. See you on the water.
CAPT. DARYL SHUMATE
Liquid Native Charters