The Great Bait Chase
Forgotten Coast Fishing Forecast: St George Island / Apalachicola / Carrabelle
By: Captain Tim “SGT” Peterson
The great fish migration is all about the chase, of baitfish that is. As the water warms up, the Menhaden, Blue Runners, etc., move into the area to feed. The pinfish, and croakers move into the shallows. Migratory fish start to move to our area in higher numbers this time of year.
By the end of the month, the summer fishing season could be mostly here. With our 21st century technology, like water temperature readings we have a good chance of finding the water temperature breaks offshore look for water in the upper 60’s. Also, if you have a savvy captain, they will have a water temperature gauge that will read the temperature going down in 10 ft increments. Once we find the right temperature for the fish, we just need to make them strike!
An anglers best bet inshore in April is to catch Spanish mackerel and Pompano. Spanish Mackerel can be caught closer to shore. Look for schools of bait fish. They may even be jumping out of the water. You can catch them on Gotcha Plugs and Spoons.
The pompano will be along the beach with the new moon. Later in the month, larger fish will be caught, some with eggs. Crab, Shrimp, and Sand fleas are popular baits. Black drum can be caught near bridges and docks with fresh shrimp or Berkley Gulp. From time to time, you will catch a Gar in the bay this time of year after good amounts of rain.
Always keep a pitch rod ready for cobia with a larger eel with multiple hooks in its tail or they will bite them off every time, and 2-3oz bucktail with a baitfish or a large plastic eel.
An anglers best bet offshore in April is to catch Gag Grouper about 8 to 15 miles out. They can still be caught in state waters. Gag Grouper season in Franklin county starts on April 1st so the boat launch will start to get pretty busy, especially on the sunny calm days. Get to your spots early. Grouper can be caught bottom fishing, or in the lower 25% of the water column. With that said, on a few occasions, I have had grouper chase a jig all the way to the top in 100ft of water. Gag and some Red Grouper are nearby on wrecks, ledges, or reefs.
Large live bait works best, quality frozen Menhaden, Northern Mackerel, and Squid will put fish in the boat. Jigs of various types work. If you get to a spot on a reef, wreck or ledge and the fish aren’t hammering your bait / tackle within a minute, it’s time to move to a new spot. Always have a casting spoon or jig ready for king and Spanish mackerel and possibly a school of Mahi Mahi that come by. If your catching white grunts you are not on the spot to catch grouper. Stop being lazy and move the boat.
The best bet to catch the readily available baitfish is with a cast net, pinfish traps, sabiki rigs, or a small hook tipped with squid or gulp bait. The pinfish and croakers will be in water less than 8 ft deep, over grass flats. Offshore, in over 30ft of water just off of reefs, you can catch squirrel fish.
The shrimpers have been in town since the begining of last month so many are using new penny shrimp gulp to fish inshore, and smaller shrimp fresh off the boat. Many old time captains say the Spanish mackerel will be in town after the third heavy fog of the year.
Most inshore fishing rods around are 4000 series rods rigged with 10-30lb test and 10-30lbs leaders. If you ask around, you will hear a wide range of what people like to use. When you get offshore on reefs, if you are using spinning set ups, I would bump it up to a 6000 series rod at least so you have enough drag to pull a fish off a reef or wreck. Offshore, we use 50-80lbs braid on the spinning tackle on reefs or towers. Bump up your leaders to match at 50-80lbs each.
Until next month, practice your Fish Jitsu.
Captain Tim Peterson
Captain ‘SGT’ Peterson’s – “More than just fishing”