Transitioning to Spring

By: Capt. Billy Norris

It’s been a tough winter this year with seemingly nonstop cold fronts keeping it windy and sometimes rough offshore, but we’ve been getting the job done!  Finally, winter is behind us and we are headed into spring and it is time to dust off the tarpon gear and get ready for an awesome springtime bite.

Backwater has been steadily producing the usual wintertime suspects. There have been plenty of sheepshead around, with some very large fish making it boat side. For bait of choice, pass crabs or shrimp have been our go-to.  In addition to sheepshead, the trout and pompano bite has been equally as impressive. Most of the trout in the Estero Bay/Wiggins area have been smaller, but some nice fish have been making an appearance as well.  After the horrendous 2019 red tide decimated the trout population, it’s encouraging to see so many trout repopulating the bays. Look for trout and pompano on the flats or in channels, especially where there is a drop-off or shelf. Jigs, with or without a shrimp tip, have been working the best for us. There are also some snook and redfish around, with an occasional juvenile tarpon hookup as well.

Nearshore has also been producing. The wrecks and reefs inside of 9 miles have had schools of cobia hanging around. Some days they are obvious, and you can actually site fish them and other days they make their presence less known, but they are certainly there. Cobia will eat a wide variety of baits, but I typically have the best luck with large pilchards or threadfins. The wrecks have also had permit on them, with some giant fish in the schools. We put one in the boat last month that was over 40 inches long, just shy of the all-tackle permit world record. Permit have great eyesight, so minimal tackle and a light leader are the key to get them to bite. Along with cobia and permit, there have been a variety of other target species including mangrove snapper, sheepshead, and snook inhabiting the nearshore areas.

Offshore has been producing as well. Red grouper season is open, and for those who are willing to make the run, the bite has been excellent. Gag grouper have also been prevalent; however, their season remains closed. No problem with some fun, hard fighting catch and release fishing though. The snapper bite offshore has been stellar. Mangrove, yellowtail and especially lanes have been filling the coolers. The lane snapper have been especially big this year, with many fish 12-18 inches hitting the ice. If you get the opportunity, the night snapper fishing has been especially good this past month.

Looking forward to spring, get ready for warmer temperatures and water, meaning we should transition into the spring fishing season. Tarpon will begin to show up in large numbers, so make sure you are ready for them. In addition, more permit will continue to arrive as the water beings to warm up. We will also start to see snook moving from their wintertime backwater hangouts to the passes and beaches. Sight fishing them on the beaches is one of my favorite fishing styles and can be as equally effective from either boat or on foot.

The fishing has been great and should continue to pick up as we move into spring, and assuming we don’t get a red tide, this should be an awesome spring season!  Call (239)285-7710 today to book your trip with Pale Horse Fishing Charters!