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Saturday, Apr 21, 2018
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Prieto: Fishing catching fire in South Shore waters

I think itís safe to say that winter has finally gone. March brought some cold weather as fronts just piled one on top of another, and as a result the water never really warmed up. But all of that is behind us now. The snook have moved to the flats, redfish are showing up in good numbers and trout fishing has continued to be strong. Best of all the weather is warm. All we needed was a little consistent weather and we have finally got it. Fishing on the flats of Tampa Bay has really taken off in the past few weeks. Areas like Joes Island, Cockroach Bay and Bishops Harbor have been very productive. We are also starting to see some of the whitebait move into Tampa Bay, which means those long runs to the mouth of the bay for bait is behind us.
As we edge our way into the heart of springtime, I expect the redfish to take center stage. Look for schools of fish to move in and out of the flats with the tides. My preferred bait for all of the species above are greenbacks, free-lined or under a Cajun Thunder Float. Match your hook to the size of your bait. I typically use the black nickel Daiichi 1/0 circle hook. Look for snook to make their move as we move closer to the summer spawn. Itís still a bit early, but Iíll start looking at areas along the outer flats as May approaches. Good places for snook are troughs and potholes leading from the shallows of the flats to deeper water. Snook use these areas as highways and as the tides rise and fall. Greenbacks are also the first choice for me when fishing snook, but as water temperatures increase cut bait will also be productive, especially with the bigger fish. Remember ALL snook are catch-and-release. This is a very important time of year as they get ready for another spawn. Trout are at the end of their peak but theyíre still hanging around on the flats. Look for the bigger fish to retreat to deeper water as the temperatures warm up. Live bait works great for trout, but they are also suckers for artificial baits. There are a variety of baits that work extremely well, but I donít like to change. I always do well with the ZMan Rootbeer or the Pearl White MinnowZ bait. Match this with the Zman 1/8-ounce Jigheadz, and youíll be ready to catch some fish. Last is one of my favorite species to target and thatís the all-mighty cobia. As we head toward May cobia fishing in Tampa Bay doesnít get any better. Finding them isnít really tough. Just check the markers and towers in the bay, and youíll typically find one circling around. Cobias are suckers for a live pinfish suspended under a Cajun Thunder float. Tight Lines!

Jason Prieto is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 727-9890 or [email protected]

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