April is well known for its pleasant mornings and warm afternoons on the water. Generally speaking, much of the usual boat traffic from most anglers and guides has started to shift from their favorite snook and redfish fishing spots to chasing the “Silver King” (tarpon) around the beaches and larger passes. This will allow for less pressure on the water and more fish willing to chew on baits.
During the month of April, I have found that periods of tide change produce larger fish. The mornings and evenings will be more productive as the water temperature will be lower. On rising and higher tides, snook and redfish will be abundant on and around mangrove points, oyster bars and the occasional sandbar. When fishing these areas mentioned earlier, I recommend free-lining live or cut scaled sardines within the target area or “strike-zone”. The addition of a few split-shot may be necessary to keep baits in the specific location during stronger tides.
The waterways of Tampa Bay are filled with scaled sardines, also known as “greenbacks” or “white bait.” These little silver bullets are candy for snook, and redfish and hold their reputation for catching trout on any given day. Scaled sardines can be caught by throwing a cast net or buying at local bait shops. Some bait shops sell scaled sardines but, most of the time, you have to use a cast net to catch them. I recommend catching enough to use for bait, as well as, a few extra to throw as chum. You will be able to find these baitfish at the channel markers and shallow-to-deep transition areas nearest boat channels. I use a 10-foot 3/8 mesh Humpback cast net to gather my bait.
The tripletail bite is expected to turn on any day now as the weather warms them into their pre-spawn patterns. Keep an eye out for floating debris as one or two may be lurking beneath. Throwing a free-lined sardine or shrimp shaped jig should do the trick.
Another species of fish to keep an eye out for this month are Spanish mackerel. Spanish mackerel are a huge summer-time favorite and can be found wherever bait-fish congregate in high numbers. A favorite spot of mine and many anglers is the main span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Whether fishing from a boat or the pier located directly next to the bridge, using a silver spoon with some wire leader on fast retrieve or a free-lined sardine should do the trick.