Spring Time Slam in Central Florida

Spring Time Slam in Central Florida

For those of us who are lucky enough to be a part time or annual resident of Central Florida with the hope of catching an in-shore or near-shore slam, the time is here! As the months of April and May arrives along with much more stable weather and fishable breezes, so do the species of game fish that the slams are famous for; Tarpon, Snook, Redfish and Spotted Sea trout. Whether you are on the East Coast, West Coast or in the Florida Keys the time for catching a “Slam” is now. As our coastal waters warm and these game fish migrate closer to the inlets or passes from the rivers, creeks, back-waters or deep water of our oceans, one thing for sure is they will be there. Not only will these hard fighting game fish be in or around these areas in most cases at some time during the day and with the right tide they are happy to eat several types of live, cut or artificial baits if properly presented.

Good reports of Tarpon and Snook have been coming from the East Coast from Ponce Inlet, Port Canaveral and south to Satellite Beach. The bait has arrived and has been south of the Cocoa Beach Pier down to the area just north of the Steeple, close or just behind the shore break. Once you find the poggies, one or two throws of the cast net and you will have plenty for days fishing. Look for the birds diving or start near the bait schools for active fish. Hook your live bait through the bottom lip then out through the nose with a 7/0 to 9/0 circle hook with at least 50lb. leader and just slow troll them keeping your eyes open for rolling Tarpon or school fish feeding in or near the bait pods. Tarpon, Snook, sharks, large Jacks and other species will be in the mix as well. Large bull redfish and Snook will be near the inlets and jetties and large sea trout close in both Banana and Indian River Lagoon systems.

As for myself, the West Coast will be my destination. I own a piece of “Heaven” on Pine Island in Bokeelia, the last of “Old Florida’s” non-commercialized island areas. The local waters of Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound as well as the famous passes of Boca Grande, Captiva and Red-fish Pass are some of the most famous locations in the world for catching record game fish. Watching the sun break and rise above the eastern main-land as I ride across Pine Island Sound to my favorite place to catch a mixed well of live baits is one of my favorite times of day. I will usually be able to catch a nice trout while chumming and waiting for the bait to arrive. After chumming for long enough to get a good slick going, a few throws of the 8ft. cast net will load our live well full of mixed bag of live baits including pin-fish, pig-fish and white-bait or green-backs (scaled sardines). Not too far from my bait spot is a place where we have caught many slot size Snook and redfish as well as over-sizes Trout. To complete our slam we will usually move to the outside of Captive Pass. We will set-up anchor about a mile off the island shore and wait with a few baits under a popping-cork and one or two others drifting on a free line, keeping our eyes open all the while for groups of a few Tarpon to several hundred in a school coming to the surface and gulping air. If the fish are off in the distance we will pick-up and move our boat to get in the path of the on-coming moving school. As the fish move their way towards us placing a good cast with a live bait or small pass crab will usually get a look from one or more of the passing school. Fighting a Tarpon of 100 to 200 pounds is much easier when we are in shallower water than those in the middle of Captiva or Boca Grande passes. Not far from Captiva pass to the north is the famous pass of Boca Grande. This is a very deep pass with often having extremely hard running tides. The full-moon in the months of April and May will produce extremely high flood tides bringing lots of bait and numerous pass-crabs on the out-going tides.

When this happens late to early evening it is usually game-on! The Tarpon will stack in the pass and the chances of hooking up or catching one of these trophies is as good as it gets, a Tarpon in the 150 to 200 pound class is the norm with fish well over 200 ponds not uncommon. Not only are trophy Tarpon in or near Boca Grande Pass but huge Snook either just around the corner to the north at the old Phosphate docks or just to the south at the entrance to Pelican Bay offer the chance of catching a Snook well in excess of the 33” top of slot size limits. I have witnessed several Snook in the 40 pound class range either landed or lost near the boat at both of these locations.

So if you are looking to catch a slam of your own, Tarpon, Snook, Redfish and Trout, the feat can be accomplished in our Central Florida waters within a short drive of where you live. The month of April and May will be a great time to get out on the water and try your luck. Remember be safe, watch out for the late afternoon storms that approach rapidly and always wear an approved life vest while off-shore with your large outboard motor under power. Good luck and Tight-Lines.

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