by Capt. Dave Stephens
It’s starting to look like we have made it through another SWFL winter. The longer days will start bringing our water temps up above the 70 degree mark. For the anglers that are not in the loop, that’s the magic number. Well if you want my opinion it is! That seems to be the time when the little critters that live in the grass and oysters get moving around. Well when the stuff that bigger fish feeds on is moving, guess what? Yep the bigger fish also start moving around.
One of the biggest movers will be snook. These guys, for the most part, having been laying low waiting on warmer water. I would recommend looking for feeding snook close to their winter haunts early in the month. Slower baits such as large shrimp and pinfish will be your best baits. However if the weather continues on a cooling trend, these guys will start to move onto the flats. Look for points with good tidal flow and flats adjacent to the mangroves with potholes. I’m sure everyone has heard of the severe red tide we endured last summer? Well due to that there will be no open Snook season on Charlotte Harbor this spring. So please handle these guys with caution, we need this fishery to make a strong recovery.
Another local fish that will be on the move with the warming water will be trout. These guys will making the move back out to our local flats. I look for areas that are what I call checkered bottom. What I mean by this is a mixture of sand and grass. Trout like to ambush prey on the edges of these bottom changes. One of the most effective ways to locate feeding trout is to drift. Covering a large flat this way can be very effective at locating feeding fish. For you artificial guys the spring trout bite can be great. Early in the morning top water is my favorite way to target bigger trout. As the sun gets higher, I will switch to a soft plastic.
Often overlooked during our spring is Spanish mackerel. These guys will begin to make their migration north this time of year. If you have some junior anglers you want to introduce to fishing these are your guys. Not only do they fight, you can keep them busy catching fish. Look for large flocks of seagulls and terns in the harbor and passes. Trolling small spoons and buck tails will get the job done. Just remember these guys have a set of chompers, so a small piece of leader wire is needed.
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