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Monday, May 21, 2018
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Guarino: Spanish mackerel, trout best bets in South Shore waters

Water temperatures in the Little Manatee River and Tampa Bay are in the upper 60s to lower 70s, just right for this time of year. Water temperatures play a big role when it comes to fishing – or should I say catching?

Abrupt changes – either higher or lower – tend to slow the feeding patterns of fish. I’ve noticed they feed more as they become acclimated to the water temperature. That’s exactly what we’re seeing this spring season.

For the past three weeks or so we’ve had a slow, steady rise in water temperatures, and the bite along South Shore has responded accordingly.

Trout fishing has been excellent with catches of 10 to 20 fish per trip. What’s been unexpected is that compared to last spring the trout seem to be a bit smaller. We’re still getting a few over 20 inches but not as many as last year. Bigger trout of 22 inches or more tend to be loners and don’t usually school up with other fish. Sometimes when you locate a school of smaller trout, try casting to the edge of the school and larger trout just might be there.

The redfish bite continues to be on the slow side, however, we managed to put a few on the boat recently. We’ve been fishing the Joe Island area on high tide using our trolling motor to ease around the many mangrove islands that line the area from Bishop Harbor south to the Skyway Bridge. Scaled sardines and pinfish under a bobber seem to work well.

Spanish mackerel fishing has exploded during the last few weeks. Most have been caught while trout fishing on deeper grass. Just anchor up and place a shrimp or scaled sardine on a long shank hook and hold on. I use 6-pound diameter, 15-pound breaking strength Ohero braided line with a 50-pound Ohero fluorocarbon shock leader to tie onto my 1/0 XXX long shank hook. This set-up seems to work best for me and helps to minimize the many bite-offs you get with Spanish mackerel.

Snook seem to be on the rebound after the cold winter problems of 2010. We’re catching more of them in the 20- to 24- inch range. This is a good sign the snook fishery is coming back in Tampa Bay. I know snook season is open but I’m still not harvesting any, at least through this summer’s spawning season.

White bait (scaled sardines) have not shown up on the grass flats of Tampa Bay. Most are located in deeper water near structure like the Skyway Bridge or some of the range markers throughout the bay.

Winter fishing was very good and I’m optimistic the spring bite will be even better. All will depend on the weather.

Be safe out there.

Danny Guarino is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 956-2010 or [email protected]

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