Successful fishing tactics to employ while awaiting warm up
Someone needs to remind Mother Nature that it’s April in Florida. We’ve had enough cold fronts and windy days to remind us why we are in the Sunshine State. It’s time for the return of those warm, calm days and fish biting like crazy. Until they do, here’s some tactics to help catch fish in sloppy weather.
Sheepshead are abundant this time of year. And, if you haven’t noticed, not only do these convict fish put up a great fight when hooked, they taste great breaded and fried. If you haven’t sat down for a sheepshead fish fry, you just don’t know what you’re missing.
Another species to target during unseasonably cold conditions is spotted seatrout. During cooler weather, these fish migrate to deep grass flats where the temp is consistent and the water is clear. Try drifting and jigging with soft plastics to get in on some great rallies on spotted seatrout.
Lastly, cooler water temps are good for targeting flounder around docks and nearshore structure. Try dragging a pinfish or shiner across the sandy bottom surrounding a reef and see what happens. The same applies for docks and piers.
Bob Kilb at the Rod & Reel Pier says sheepshead are biting on shrimp, crabs or fleas. Fish in the 1- to 2-pound range are the norm at the pier, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t bigger ones lurking there.
Pier fishers eager for Spanish mackerel are still waiting. Stray macks are being caught, but the masses of fish have not arrived. The macks that are being caught are respectable, coming in at 20-plus inches.
Flounder and black drum are being caught at the pier, although this bite also is sporadic. Most of these catches are occurring for pier fishers targeting sheepshead with live shrimp.
Jonny Keyes at Island Discount Tackle is hearing of sheepshead at the piers and canal docks coming to the hook on live shrimp, fiddler crabs and sand fleas. Keyes suggests using a small, stout hook when targeting sheepshead due to their boney mouth.
From the flats, Keyes is hearing of decent spotted seatrout action occurring on soft plastics combined with a lead jig head. Most trout fishers are finding flats with water depths of 5-7 feet and then doing a slow drift to locate fish. Slot-size trout are being reported daily.
On shallower flats, depths of 2-3 feet, redfish and catch-and-release snook are responding to live shiners fished under a popping cork. Keyes suggests hunting mangrove shorelines with good tidal flow to find the fish.
Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business charters is targeting a variety of species depending on how the weather plays out.
On warmer days, Gross is hooking up clients with catch-and-release snook and redfish on shallow flats during the high tides. Gross is using live shiners to target both species. Slot-size reds are the norm with a few over-slot fish mixed in. The size range on catch-and-release snook is 20-31 inches this past week.
On cooler days, Gross is fishing deep grass for spotted sea trout, using a MirrOlure Lil John combined with a 1/4-ounce jighead to locate the fish. By doing a slow drift over the flats, Gross is producing trout up to 20 inches. Expect to catch Spanish mackerel and ladyfish there, too.
Finally, on windy, cold days, Gross is fishing structure for sheepshead and flounder, using live shrimp to target both species. Sheepies in the 1- to 2-pound range are biting consistently. While targeting sheepies, flounder in the 15-inch range also are being brought to the boat.
Capt. Warren Girle is targeting redfish around mangrove islands and shorelines lined with oyster bars. Using fresh-cut chunks of ladyfish for bait, he entices the reds to bite. Fish in the 23- to 27-inch range were the norm this past week.
Moving out to deeper grass flats, Girle is targeting spotted seatrout with soft plastics. By drifting and jigging, he’s putting clients on big trout, exceeding the slot. Along with trout, he’s reeling up ladyfish, mackerel and bluefish.
Lastly, Girle is fishing docks on windy, cold days for flounder and mangrove snapper. Live shrimp is the bait of choice for Girle when targeting these fish during cold weather. He reports catching flounder up to 18 inches.
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