What a cool winter we’ve had in central Florida compared to the rest of the eastern seaboard of the United States. You have to love living here during the winter months.
In spring our snook population moves out of its winter homes and migrates toward the creek mouths and passes lining the South Shore area. With the cool weather of January and February, this migration is just getting started.
Catch reports of snook continue to rise again this year, and I think this spring we’ll see some impressive numbers compared to the last few years. Still I think we need one more year for the snook population to reach the levels we had prior to the 2009 freeze.
Redfish will be scattered across the grass flats from Apollo Beach to Joe Island. Try fishing the many sandy holes from E.G. Simmons Park to Cockroach Bay. Also look for schools of mullet that roam the area. Redfish tend to follow them, feeding in their wake.
The trout bite in February was very good and I expect it to continue well into March. Look for grass beds in the three-foot range on the outside edge of the sand bars along South Shore.
We should start to see cobia feeding near the channel markers and towers that are placed throughout Tampa Bay. Live pilchards – some call them green backs – will be the bait of choice for these drag-pulling monsters.
Look for the big bait pods to arrive in March and schools of mackerel not far behind. In fact, I heard a few reports of Spanish mackerel being caught at the mouth of Tampa Bay since mid February.
White bait has been available most of the winter. Expect to see it migrate to the grass flats a little later due to the cool weather.
This time of year I like to mix it up by targeting snook in the passes, redfish and trout on the flats and a few mackerel out in open water. White bait will be my bait of choice.
If you can, get out and enjoy this great weather. South Shore has some of the fishing Florida has to offer. Just remember it’s not the number of fish you bring home that makes a successful trip. Its the number of smiles you experience by going fishing.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.