Lots of big influences are going on this week. Officially, the first day of spring was Wednesday. The full moon was Wednesday evening at 5:58 P.M. The final super moon is also this week, called the Super Worm Moon that occurs at 9:43 P.M. It’s said that the name comes from the ground thawing to the point that Earthworms can reappear. Obviously that doesn’t mean much to us here in Florida, but for other parts of our snow-covered U.S. it might. Some calmer winds and bigger tides for the weekend caused by lunar influences could get fish chewing after some breezy weather this week. A nice weather weekend is on tap.
It’s Spring Break time and there are lots of tourists in town, ready to take advantage of our weather and perhaps get on the water to do some fishing. For anglers looking to keep some fish, nearshore artificial reefs are showing some good signs of action with plenty of Spanish mackerel showing up to rip some drags and line off spools. Light tackle angling at its best with these speedy fish can put bends in rods and smiles on faces. Good action has been reported from Englewood to the Nature Coast by anglers tossing everything from spoons and jigs to live shrimp and whitebait on many of the reefs and by those trolling some lures. For certain, these fish are drawn to frozen chum blocks that can be deployed and that are available at most bait and tackle shops and many grocery stores in the frozen meat departments. One such local favorite and one of the best available is from Aylesworth’s Fish and Bait under the Baitmaster’s logo.
For the table, Spanish mackerel are excellent when fresh and taken care of promptly after catching. Bleeding and getting these fish on ice is imperative for the top quality fillets from these fish. They are an oily fish that should be consumed the first day if possible but no later than the second, as they do not freeze well. Popular methods of cooking include smoking, broiling, baking, and frying. Some amazing recipes abound in Vic Dunaway’s book called The Angler’s Cookbook, available at the FS store online.
For those looking for bigger fish to target, king mackerel, a.k.a. kingfish, the larger cousin to the Spanish mackerel, are showing up in greater numbers on many of the deeper water reefs and wrecks in the Gulf. Most are found by trolling spoons about 4-to 5-knots or by slow-trolling live baits like ribbon fish, ladyfish, mullet, a 12-inch Spanish mackerel, or possibly the top bait, a blue runner. Anchoring up and chumming, particularly around full and new moon periods with good water movement, will draw fish in an area right to an anchored boat. The half-day party boats out of Hubbard’s Marina are reporting some nice kings being caught in the 10-to 30-pound class and hitting flat lines while trolling plugs or spoons. Capt. Dylan Hubbard reported some nice hogfish being caught near shore with anglers using live shrimp and fiddler crabs. Hubbard reports that they’ve been running a little deeper on the half-days since some shallow areas are still recovering from last year’s red tide. But most areas around 12-to 14-miles (40-feet or so) have been productive for grunts, lane and mangrove snapper, hogfish and more.
Offshore anglers pushing out beyond the 100-foot mark are showing back up at the docks with some nice mangos. Mangrove snapper in the 8-pound class are being caught along with lane, yellowtail, and vermilion snappers, porgies and with some larger hogfish. Capt. Hubbard also reported some good action with very respectable red grouper on the Middle Grounds.
This past week has been a slam dunk for anglers looking to get on some nice fish for an Inshore Grand Slam, (snook, trout, and redfish on the same day). Big snook are being caught right now and most have voracious appetites. We caught several this week aboard my boat, the Flat Back II along the South Shore of Tampa Bay and in lower Tampa Bay and Terra Ceia that were over 32-inches and up to nearly 40-inches. Many of our snook were caught on just a handful of lures. The CAL 3″ Shad tail was outstanding, as were the MirrOlure MirrOdine Skin Series, and Rapala Twitchin’ Mullet. Anglers all the way to Homosassa have been landing some whopper snook even though both snook and redfish remain closed in much of the West Central area until May 10.
Redfish continue to be a pretty tough customer to catch, especially from lower Tampa Bay to the south. But Capt. Rick Grassett of Sarasota fishing out of CB Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key has been making the best of it by targeting a variety of species. Over the past couple of weeks he and his clients have had some excellent catches on flies and while spin fishing. One of his clients caught a permit on fly in the Sarasota Bay area along with snook and trout. Grassett’s snook trips at night have been very productive for his fly anglers. Fishing north Sarasota Bay to Terra Ceia his clients have caught a few redfish, some snook and some decent trout. For other anglers fishing Tampa Bay, from the Skyway to the north, there have been some larger trout caught. We’ve caught some in the mid-to upper slot of 15-to 20-inches and several in the mid-to upper twenty inch range on either CAL Jigs with Shad tails, DOA Shrimp, or MirrOlure MirrOdines. Trout fishing from Clearwater Bay and St. Joseph’s Sound has been excellent and the farther north you go, the fishing seems to improve even more. This bit of a cool snap this week may chill things a bit and move fish around, but the warming trend ahead will put these fish back on the prowl to chew again.
Crankbaits for anglers around the area have been very productive. For many, the Rat ‘L Trap has been their go to rattling crankbait, but for others, the Strike King KVD 1.5 square bill crankbait has been getting it done in the Sexy Shad color. Lake Seminole in Pinellas County has been productive lately for anglers working the edges of the grass with big worms like the Sna Koil from DOA Lures. Jerk baits and big paddle tail grubs rigged on wide gap weighted hook like the Owner Beast can be rigged weedless and worked in heavy cover. We’ve had excellent success with bass using that combination. Fish are getting very active all over the West Central area. It’s a good time to get on the water. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!
Capt. Ray Markham