Spacecoast Fishing Report
In my last fishing report, I talked about March being the windy month and April being the month that things start to stabilize. Well, I seemed to have cursed myself and every other person in Florida when I said that. Instead, April continued to be a month of crazy weather. I'm not sure we had more than a few days of winds under 15-20. Despite that fact, we still fished and we still had plenty of action.
April turned out to be a month where I had a lot of opportunities to introduce new anglers to the saltwater. In fact, I had quite a few trips where anglers had never fished before. These trips can be a challenge. Most new anglers do not have the ability to sight fish redfish, seatrout, and our other target species. They also don't have the casting abilities to target structure for my big snook. However, as a guide, you must be able to adapt your usual methods and find a way to be successful on these trips. So, adapting is what I did.
For new anglers, I have found using live bait is the best method. I was fortunate for most of my trips that one of my local bait shops had plenty of local, live shrimp. I cannot stress the importance of using local bait if you have the choice. In my location, the local shrimp have a slightly reddish tint to them. In contrast, west coast shrimp are white and a lot of the bait shops only carry west coast shrimp. I hate this and will do everything I can to avoid buying them. Why? First, the west coast shrimp have spent a long time being trucked over and they become very fragile on the hook. Second, I've had multiple times where fish are actively feeding on shrimp in the river, but when offered a white, west coast shrimp, they refuse it; I believe with all of my heart they can tell the difference. Now, if the local shrimp are not running, then they will eat what falls in front of them. But when the locals are running, I won't waste my time with west coast shrimp, I'll use an artificial jig that better represents my local shrimp (rootbeer and new penny colors with gold flake work well). A tip for actually catching gamefish and not catfish or stingrays when using live bait: use the smallest circle hook you can and the lightest weight possible. My go to live bait rig is a 1/0 or 2/0 circle hook with a BB sized split shot about 8 inches above the shrimp. This allows the shrimp to move and appear natural in the water and I get better results from snook, seatrout, tarpon, jacks, and snapper. Using a large weight means the shrimp is on the bottom, where catfish and stingrays hang out. Having a rod with a nice tip, a reel with light braid, and knowing how to "pitch" the cast will help you deliver the bait to the proper area, without flinging it off. Then, give a little extra line and be ready.
New anglers have difficulty with the "be ready" portion. On a few trips we would have everything perfect, but my anglers were not quite prepared for the ferocity of big snook, seatrout or jacks. My highlight of the month was a trip with a family: dad, granddad and two kids. The focus was the kids. We were pitching large, select shrimp for snook. Since they couldn't quite make the cast, I would make it and hand them the rod. We caught some smaller snook, seatrout and jacks. Then, we all watched as one of the shrimp started popping at the surface (doing its thing). A snook over 40 inches crashed the shrimp, going airborne as it did. The fish never missed a beat, taking about 100 feet of line through two docks, around some pilings, and finally break us off. It took less than 2 minutes for the run and break off, but it was an exciting two minutes and all we could was laugh. Of course, big snook can shame anyone and many of my experienced anglers had similar results on them. In all, I think I ended the middle of April 0 for 20 on snook over 30 inches. They love structure and they know how to win the majority o the battles. Still, we caught a lot of snook and the fishing will only get better for them as the year progresses. When we weren't using live shrimp, the choice for snook was a Rapala Twitch Mullet on conventional gear, or a Crease Popper for my fly anglers.
Redfish have been up and down all month. We have seen plenty, but we have had a few days where it just seemed we couldn't get them to cooperate. Heck, we even had some swim over to live shrimp, nose them, and then swim off. There isn't much you can do on days like that except keep trying. Difficult days require anglers and the guide to be patient and keep tying various locations. Through hard work and patience, we were able to make even the most difficult days successful. The best days on the water were had while using Z-Man PaddleZ in Mulletron or Pinfish color, or on fly, while using Borksi's Chernolbyl PM Crab.
My big seatrout were the most elusive fish during the month. We saw some true monsters, but we didn't have any luck in catching them. On all but one occasion, they made us before we saw them. On that one occasion, she came up to eat, spotted us, and eased off. All of these were true Gator Trout, and it was difficult seeing them due to windy conditions throughout the month. I am hoping it will get better when the winds start to lay down. We managed several slot-sizes trout and we got most of them on live shrimp. We took a few on Crease Poppers too, when my fly anglers were fishing for snook.
Tarpon have started showing up, but the late cold fronts have interrupted their full migration. Juvenile tarpon abound and we had a couple of trips where we targeted them for a little bit. However, they were not in feeding mode, as cold fronts kept pushing through and screwing up the barometer and the temperature. May will begin my official hunting month for tarpon and they will really get serious in June. For those interested in catching tarpon, you do not have to travel to the Florida Keys. We have plenty of tarpon fishing here, and it is a lot less pressured than other areas. if you want details, message me or call me and I will be happy to discuss it. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
The freshwater side of Florida has been steady. In fact, largemouth bass fishing has probably been the steadiest fishing I had for the month of April. The Z-Man Original Chatterbait is still my lure of choice for bass fishing, but we've also entered our "frogging" time. There's something wonderfully special about watching a largemouth bass crush a soft plastic frog being worked across the water's surface. The explosion, the leaps through the air, and the fight all make for great memories, While most of our bass have been in the 2-3 pound range, we've gotten a few in the 7-8 pound range too. No matter their size, they are are great fun.
So, whether you are an experienced angler, a brand new angler, want saltwater or freshwater, give me a shout! I will be happy to go over trip details and let you know what to expect. I would love to get the opportunity to show you Natural Florida, in all of her wonder, and make some fishing memories!