Fishing inshore, offshore hot as we move toward summer

With conditions near perfect, fishing around Anna Maria Island is good both inshore and offshore.
The waters are close to being gin clear which can be enjoyable while fishing. I’m finding myself hypnotized while cruising slowly around the flats of Tampa Bay as I look down from my tower into the clear waters. On some day’s it’s hard to come down and fish. Watching and looking down into the water is like peering into another world. It’s not every day you get to witness this.

Taking the clear waters into account, I’m having to scale down my leader and hook sizes. Fluorocarbon leaders 15-20 pounds are working. I’m also combining a No.1 Owner hook to the rig. This seems to be enough to trick the fish into taking a bait. I have noticed the tides are affecting the bite, too. Slower moving tides — such as the ones we are experiencing — are requiring a little most patience as the fish seen to be less motivated to feed. But, don’t be discouraged. Keep track of where these fish are and fish them on the peak times of the flow during the tide. Trust me, they’ll eat if you time it right.

This being said, calm, clear waters are a great opportunity to do some scouting. These conditions make it easy to spot fish and also study the terrain where you like to fish. You might even find some new spots you never knew about if your eyes are trained to find them.

On my Southernaire fishing charters, I’m targeting catch-and-release snook. For sheer shallow water action, these fish are about as good as it gets. Explosive strikes, combined with drag-screaming runs, make the snook one of the most popular fish the backcountry has to offer. Most catches are falling 18-24 inches, which isn’t huge, but when you catch 30-40 of them in a morning, it makes for some good action. And what’s better is you never know when the 30-40 inch fish is going to surprise you and eat your shiner.

Spotted seatrout are next on the list. I’m finding free-lining live shiners over deep grass areas during swift incoming tides is getting these fish amped up to bite. Most catches are falling in the slot of 15-20 inches. I’m seeing a few trout over 20 inches, which are now being released in order to stay in compliance with the new Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulations.

Lastly, I’m fishing structure in Tampa Bay. Mangrove snapper are beginning to show, although they have a way to go until they meet their potential numbers. Big gag grouper are present in these areas, which are good action, but need to be released since they are not in season.

Finally, free-lining baits over the wrecks is resulting in Spanish mackerel and jack crevalle.