As we enter the month of May, tarpon fishing seems to be the topic of conversation.
Rumors of tarpon sightings are beginning to surface, although the real numbers of fish have yet to arrive.
That being said, reports for both inshore and offshore fishing still remain quite good.
Inshore fishing on the flats is worthy of producing plenty of action. The key to finding the action is locating clean, clear water where good tidal flow exists. In recent days, the water quality of Anna Maria Sound and its waters to the south has been less than favorable. As a result, most anglers are finding their way north to the waters of the Manatee River, Terra Ceia Bay and even the waters north of the Sunshine Skyway bridge.
In these clear, pristine-looking waters, catch-and-release species — snook, spotted sea trout and redfish — are quite apparent. Free-lining live shiners as bait is working well for all three species. If you struggle at catching bait, try using soft plastics combined with a jig head. These will suffice. You may not see the results you’re used to when using live shiners, but you should get some action — especially from the trout.
Moving out to slightly deeper water is producing some action. Fishing structure in Tampa Bay is worthy of some Spanish mackerel and even a few mangrove snapper. Most snapper inshore are on the smaller side, but if you’re not picky about filleting 10-inch snapper, you might be able to get a limit.
If you’re looking to catch mangrove snapper that are well above the 10-inch minimum size limit, you may want to venture offshore. Reports of both mangrove and yellowtail snapper being caught are quite frequent.
Anchoring and chumming over offshore reefs and wrecks sounds like it’s quite productive. Fishing ledges and hard bottom is producing action on these tasty fish, too.
And while offshore, you’ll want to target some migratory fish such as blackfin tuna, kingfish, amberjack and African pompano. Free-lining baits over wrecks should get you connected with these species.
On my own Southernaire charters, I am targeting catch-and-release fish such as snook, redfish and trout. The snook and trout are cooperating nicely on most days. Especially on days when tidal flow is swift and clean, clear water is present. As for the redfish, I’m seeing some, but only catching a handful here and there. Free-lining live shiners for the snook and trout is producing plenty of action. I am noticing the snook are a little spread out, so moving frequently is necessary if you wish to catch good numbers of fish.
For the trout it’s the opposite. Once I find some fish there seems to be a bunch of them. And some mornings I’m seeing 15-20 trout caught in one area. Then you move slightly and nothing. A couple spots later and it’s back to catching a bunch again.