Tampa Bay Fishing Report March 2008

Archived in the category: Fishing Reports
Posted by: Captain Woody - Comments Off on Tampa Bay Fishing Report March 2008

The Tampa Bay waters are full of fish and offer excellent Snook, Redfish and Trout action starting at the north end of the Bay down to the Skyway. Some North Tampa Bay hotspots are Safety Harbor, Mobly Bay, Rocky Point, Rocky Creek, and Double Branch. If you fish the north end the Courtney Campbell Causeway Ramp is a decent boat launch but has limited parking especially on weekends. Central bay areas include Picnic Island, Coffee Pot Bayou, Weedon Island, Fourth Street, Cypress Flats, and Culbreath Isle Flats and you can launch at either the Causeway or Salty Sol Boat ramp located on West Gandy Blvd on the Tampa side of the Gandy Bridge. Good producing locations on the southeast shore with boat ramps located at Williams Park and Simmons Park include the Alafia and Little Manatee River, Apollo Beach Flats, the Kitchen, Simmons Park, big and little Cockroach Bay, Piney Point, Bishops Harbor, and Joe Bay. On the St. Petersburg side check out Pinellas Point, The Skyway Fishing Pier, Tarpon Key, Indian Key, Tierra Verde/Fort Desoto and Boca Ciega Bay all the way into Bradenton and Sarasota.

Because the fishing pressure continues to climb throughout Florida and because it’s a wonderful pastime for friends and families it’s import that we protect the assets that give us pleasure. Many of us enjoy eating a good fish dinner so don’t hesitate to take enough for a meal. However, filling your freezer with fillets is not in the best interest of protecting our fish.

Unless properly frozen fish have a short shelf life usually 2 to 6 months depending on fat content and how it’s frozen. Otherwise it quickly becomes freezer burned destined only for the garbage. It doesn’t matter how good your freezer, nothing saves a piece of fish if the package’s air tight seal is lost. The omega-3 fats are highly unstable and when exposed to air oxidize quickly, leaving that recognizable, rancid, fishy, smell and taste. Whenever you take fish from your freezer and the seal appears broken, give it the smell test.

Remember, if it’s not in the freezer you have an excellent reason to go fishing, “like we really need one”.

Early mornings, light wind and a small ripple on the water are excellent times to fish topwater lures for Snook, Redfish and Trout. Like hundreds of anglers one of my favorite topwater’s is the MirrOlure and it’s made right here in Largo, Florida. As a company committed to offering the highest quality, they continually improve and manufacture state of the art lures which results in millions of fish caught in both fresh and saltwater. One of my favorites is the Top Dog series and a favorite of everyone the 7M. Always on the cutting edge they’ve recently created three additional fish catchers: the MirrOMullet Surface Walker, Suspending MirrODine, & MirrOMinnow, I have used these new lures with exceptional results on Snook, Redfish and Trout.

Use a “walk-the-dog” or twitch technique, across a grassy flat in 2 to 3 feet of water and hold on to your fishing rod. Snook strikes for example are usually so violent they frequently push the lure right out of the water, so wait until you feel the fish before setting the hook. Redfish on the other hand make a swirling strike and occasionally miss on the first attempt. If you’re “walking the dog” slow it down but never stop it. Countless times I’ve seen someone stop the lure only to see the Redfish turn away and lose interest. Conversely if you keep the lure moving the Red keeps striking. Again, wait until you feel the fish to set the hook.

Here’s a little something about hook setting. We’ve watched bass professionals wrench back on their rods to set the hook. Some reasons given for this type of hook set is quick reaction times result in good hookups, getting the stretch out their monofilament line and forcing the hook point (usually rigged weedless by embedding it into the soft plastic lure) out of the plastic lure and into the fish.

Today with many anglers switching to braided line and open J-hooks aggressive, haul back and set the hook techniques are unnecessary. Because braid has little or no stretch and no memory just getting the slack out of the line forces the hook set. With braided line like when you see or feel a strike quickly lift the rod to remove any slack line and reel the hook does the rest. “Slack Line is Not Your Friend” and I’ve seen thousands of anglers miss a strike because of it.

One final point on hook setting involves circle hooks that have been around for centuries. Over the last 10 to 20 years and with a move toward environmentally friendly fishing “Circle Hooks” increased in popularity with recreational anglers. They’ve proved to be the most fool proof way of hooking fish that produces the least damage. Hook sets normally occur in the outside edge of the mouth and seldom if ever throat or gut-hooks a fish. Circle hooks are automatic, just lift your rod, take up any slack line, (which should not be there) and it’s a hookup. Try to set the hook yourself by pulling before you feel the fish and guess what? The fish wins.

Snook: (Season Opens March 1st – April 30th). Unless we have an extended winter season keeping the water temperatures down the Snook should be out and about looking for food. As the water temperatures rise they move into summertime patterns. Greenbacks will begin showing up again and live bait anglers will be getting out that dreaded cast net. Look for Snook to pattern along outside edges and points along mangrove islands and shorelines especially where tidal flows move bait. Our miles of grass flats with sandy potholes also offer excellent ambush locations. Live bait, suspending lures, topwater’s and soft plastics always produce.

Redfish: There’s nothing more exciting to a Redfish angler than easing onto a shallow grass flat and seeing fish tails waving in the air. Identify which direction they are feeding and approach quietly. Natures provided Redfish with exceptional eyesight and hearing and can almost hear you change your mind. With quit and low profile mandatory serious anglers often slip over the side wading to within casting distance. With perfectly placed cast try picking off the outside fish never casting directly into the school.

In every report I write about mullet schools and it bears repeating when locating feeding Redfish. Redfish follow schooling mullet eating the baits they stir up so, fishing these mullet schools usually produces. Live bait, suspending lures, top water and soft plastics always yield good Redfish catches. While some anglers use the dead stick method with cut ladyfish, mullet or chunks of crab.

Spotted Sea Trout: March will continue producing good catches on incoming or outgoing tides. I cannot emphasize the excitement of using topwater lures on calm early morning flats. Trout love the MirrOlure’s 7M series, 5M series, Top Dog and new MirrOMullet. Twitch or “walk-the-dog” and pause the lure momentarily after each series. The anticipation is un-nerving.

For die-hard live baits users, live shrimp, greenbacks, or pinf ish under a Paradise Popper from Old Bayside, find a good broken bottom grass flat and you’ll catch trout. Its four fish per person, per day, with a slot limit of 15 to 20 inches. You can have one fish over 20 in the southern region. On moving tides check the flats around Weedon Island, 4th Street, Culbreath Bayou, Cockroach Bay, Bishops Harbor, Simmons Park, Joe Island also Ft. Desoto, Tarpon Key, Indian Key, Boca Ciega Bay, and Pinellas Point flats are good bets.

Cobia, Mackerel, Sharks: As the bait shows up these should follow. Check markers and cans holding bait and be ready to toss something in the path of a circling Cobia. Not picky about food Cobia will readily take large shrimp, small crabs and pin fish or toss them an artificial jerk bait or plastic eel. Mackerel with eat greenbacks, threadfins, silver spoons and Gotca lures.