It’s one of my favorite times of the year again and the fishing gods must be in a good mood because they sent us some great fishing targets ahead of schedule. Tarpon, Kingfish, and Cobia are three of my favorite fish to catch and all three have already started to show up much earlier than expected. Thanks to the warm weather and influx of bait, these three pelagics are definitely moving in to our area’s beaches and bays.
On the flats the redfish are feeding really well on the high parts of the tide and the Snook action has been the best I’ve seen it since our freeze of 2010. The trout action has been very consistent with most of them in the 15-24 inch range with some trophy trout over 25′ mixed in.
Offshore, the grouper bite has been insane, and I cannot wait for grouper season to open on April 1st. The amberjack and tuna bite has also been strong as well. If you are getting out on your own soon focus your efforts between 100-140 ft. of water and make sure you bring plenty of live bait with you.
Now before you jump into your boat and start catching crabs, take a deep breath. The giant schools of tarpon have not quite arrived, but there are definitely some nice migratory poon’s moving into the bay. Don’t expect to get out there this week and hook 10-20 tarpon a day like it’s May or June, but those who are willing to put some time in for a day will definitely be rewarded with a handful of hook-ups. Focus your efforts around the Skyway Bridge and the rock piles and wrecks to the east and west of the bridge. The bait of choice is definitely big threadfin herring or menhaden, but large scaled sardines will work as well. Work all levels of the water column with live and dead bait until you get on a pattern, and be ready for the most exciting fight of any inshore species. The tarpon I have caught over the last two weeks have been between 80-140 pounds, so make sure you eat your Wheaties and be ready to battle.
As a child I could have cared less about butterflies, I just thought they were another bug to get stuck to the grill of our cars. Now, when I see butterflies everywhere, I get really excited. Butterflies are a great indicator to the start of our annual cobia run. Butterflies are flying all over the bay right now, and the cobia have begun to move into our waters as well. The best way to get your early season cobia fix is to simply stop at as many markers and buoy’s as you can while out on the water. Scan the surface around them, and look down any rope or chain attached. A well placed live bait or artificial eel should do the trick.
Of all three species, the kingfish is probably the one that are the most abundant right now. On my last offshore trip we spent only about an hour targeting kingfish and hooked 7 of them. They have been ranging in size from 5 to 25 pounds, but there are definitely some big “smokers” out there as well. The shipping channels and rock piles have been producing well, but your eyes are one of your most valuable tools you have to locate kings. Look out for big schools of bait being pushed up to the surface as well as birds diving into the water to pick up the scraps of bait left behind by kingfish slashing through schools of bait. Make sure to use wire leaders and experiment with different baits and sizes till you find out what they want that day.
Give me a call to get out there and enjoy some of the absolutely awesome fishing we have going on right now.
Be Safe out there and remember to take a kid fishing!
Captain Matt Santiago