Fishing Report March 20, 2016

Warmer Water Temps heats up local fishing action

Water temps are on the rise, which is a welcome sight to local fisher and tourists alike. And with these rising water temps came a whole new batch of species and techniques. The most prominent backwater species making a showing is snook.

It’s time to start checking your springtime haunts for snook. I’m seeing good numbers of schooley fish 20-26 inches. Keeper fish are being spotted in respectable numbers, too.

Spotted seatrout are another species showing back up on the flats. Deeper grass flats adjacent to channel edges or where sandy potholes are present are holding respectable numbers of these famous flats species. Most catches are falling in the slot, although decent numbers of over-slot fish are also being caught.

Other species in abundance are mangrove snapper. These tasty, hard-fighting fish are congregating around nearshore and offshore structure. Live shiners fished on a knocker rig are readily taking fish inhabiting the bottom. Average sizes are falling between 15-20 inches.

On my recent charters with Just Reel Fishing Charters, I am celebrating the reemergence off white bait. Currently, the snook bite is on fire and there is no better way to catch these snook than with a free-lined shiner. Watching a snook blast your bait on the surface of the water is one of the most exciting backwater experiences. Not only is it visible, but audible, too. You may not know it but a seasoned snook fisher can actually recognize the sound of a snook “pop” without ever seeing a thing. That signature “popping” sound in unmistakable once your ears are trained to decipher it.

Most catches I’m seeing are falling in the 20- to 26-inch range. Rallies of these schooley fish are occurring daily on good moving tides. Keeper-fish are mixed in, although the consistent bite is on the smaller males.

Mangrove snapper are also enjoying my offerings of white bait. Nearshore structure is providing good action on post spawn snapper. Limits are being reeled up from the depths with most fish 15-20 inches. Yeah, that’s right — 15-20 inches. These are respectable sizes to catch in water depths of 20-30 feet. And good eating, too. A 1/2-ounce knocker rig with a 2/0 circle hook and some 20-pound fluorocarbon are the tools of the trade.

Lastly, spotted seatrout are making their way back into the flats in a big way. Limits of these fish are being caught on live shiners free-lined over deep grass flats. Strong incoming tides seem to be working best for me, especially along edges of sand bars where grass is present.