From offshore waters to inshore flats, fishing around Sebastian Inlet has been on fire. Don Perchalski at Strike Zone Fishing www.strike-zonefishing.com started his report offshore this week. "There are lots of dolphin in 220 feet of water," he said. Don told us that the fish are chasing split tailed mullet and rigged ballyhoo. Closer to shore, cobia fishing remains good in the 68 degree water that is off of Port Canaveral. Inside Sebastian inlet, snook fishing has picked up speed. Don says that guys throwing bucktails from the jetties are scoring big snook while boaters drifting live pinfish or croakers are also picking up big linesiders in the inlet. In the skinny water, Don reported that trout and red fishing continues to keep anglers busy. Don suggests throwing topwater plugs in the morning then switching to soft plastics when the sun gets high in the sky. "If the sky is cloudy, you can fish topwater all day," Don says.
"Wonderful fishing," reports Adair Duke from Hook, Line, and Sinker in Inglis, Florida. "We're catching lots of trout, reds, and flounder," she rubs it in. Adair tells us that the trout are taking shrimp or Gulp! jigs thrown into the grass flats. The best locations have been the spoil banks along the barge canal. On a recent trip, Adair went looking for trout and found reds instead. She was using live pinfish and shrimp on a 3/0 hook tied to 30 pound mono leader on 8 pound mainline. "Sheepshead are biting, too," she adds. Anglers floating live shrimp under a bobber over the rocks are connecting with good numbers of tasty sheepies. Snook fishing is also good at the Withlacoochee River spillway. Adair says that tripletail and tarpon are just starting to pick up speed. "We saw three tarpon at Lowe's Bay this week," Adair said.
It's Spring Break in Daytona, which means party all night and fish all day. Karty Sills at Gone Fishing Charters www.captkarty.com has been focusing his efforts in Mosquito Lagoon where the water level is already at summer depths. He explains that high water allows the drum to spread out. "The best thing to do is cover a lot of ground," he suggests. Dan uses search baits such as gold spoons or weedless jerk baits to locate the fish. "If you find a school, stay on them," he stresses. Karty expects the trout to get hungry soon. He'll start enticing them with live shrimp on a 2/0 Kahle hook then switch to live pigfish on a No. 4 wideband Eagle Claw hook. "I'll be looking for the trout on drop offs," he adds. Anglers around Daytona are lucky that they can party on and off the water.
It's Spring Break across the state this week, as anglers from Panama Beach, Florida make party and go fishing. Joe Patrelle at Brooks Bridge Bait and Tackle was stoked to report that the first cobia of the season have shown up just in time for the first cobia anglers to pull into town. He said that crews are encountering fish to 50 pounds cruising up and down the beach. Joe tells us that a 3-ounce jig, live eel, or small catfish will fool these curious fish. Surf anglers are enjoying Panama City's beaches as much as the spring breakers. Joe said that all it takes to catch enough pompano for dinner is a medium action surf rod and a two hook bottom rig armed with No. 6 hooks and a couple pieces of shrimp. The docks and pilings on the inland waterways are holding sheepshead and red drum. The sheepies are hungry for a fiddler crab on a single hook dropper rig. The drum will move from the docks to the flats where anglers can target them with jigs or shrimp.
From one side of Florida to the other, the name of the game is snook this week. Mike Larko at Sunshine Ace Hardware www.sunshineace.com in Naples reported that keeper snook (between 28 and 33 inches) are being caught in the Imperial River and smaller creeks with live pilchards or 3-inch Gulp! jigs. Mike suggests rigging the live bait on a 1/0 circle hook attached to an arm's length of 40 pound leader material. "Hook the bait through the mouth or in front of the dorsal fin so that when you reel it in it swims towards you," Mike says. He adds that anglers fishing off Marco Island and Everglades City are starting to see kings, cobia, permit, and tarpon. Bottom fishing has also started to pick up speed. "The farther out you fish, the better your chances," Mike says.
On the other side of the state, anglers in Miami are also consumed with snook fishing. Manny Fernandez at the Complete Angler www.completeanglerfishing.com told us that guys fishing the bridges that cross Government Cut at night are scoring snook and tarpon with live shrimp or Gulp!. Whether using the synthetic version or the real thing, Manny suggests rigging up with a 2/0 or 3/0 J-hook and 5 feet of 50 pound leader. "Drift and cast the shrimp in to the lights or around the structure," He says, "You want the bait to look as natural as possible." During the day Offshore fishing is equally as good. Manny says that anglers fishing in 90 to 100 feet of water are catching kings, while guys heading to the drop between 90 and 150 feet are finding sails. Crews who head out further are catching big dolphin in 500 feet of water. All of the fish are being caught on live pilchards, herring, or goggle eyes. Even bottom fishing has been productive on any of the reefs or rocks. "Fishing is just really good right now," Manny said.
After being held in port by the weather all week, Captain Jim Barlett was anxious to get the Beast www.beastcharters.com off Miami this week. Despite the hiatus, it didn't take Jim long to find the fish. The crew started the day targeting sailfish, catching one on live ballyhoo in 125 feet of water at the edge of the reef. "One boat went 2 for 3," Jim said, "and another guy caught a sail in 35 feet of water." Jim also found good numbers of king mackerel while slow trolling live ballyhoo on a down rigger. "Most guys don't use a downrigger," he said, "but it will keep you busy." Next, Jim turned his attention to bottomfishing. "The mutton bite was good in 215 feet," he said. His crew also lucked into a big African pompano on the wreck. Jim added that the big permit have not shown up on the wrecks, but he expects to see them soon.
Sheepshead are making a lot of noise out of Port St. Joe this week. David Paschall at Half Hitch Tackle www.halfhitch.com told us that anglers fishing along the buoy line are catching some impressive sheepies with a Carolina rig armed with a short shank hook, 15 pound leader, and 1/4 to 1/2 ounces of lead. Guys drifting bull minnows on heavier Carolina rigs and a Size 4 Mutu circle hook are scoring big flounder. - Ric Burnley
Henry Ciamatto at Snook Nook claims that Stuart, Florida should be renamed "Pompano City." Anglers are catching these tasty, silver fish from the beach, to the bridges, to flats. Henry recommends using a chunk of clam on a bottomrig from the beach while a small spoon will catch the fish from the bridges. Guys fishing on the flats are catching plate-sized pompano with shrimp. Henry added that there are millions of 3 to 5 pound bluefish ravaging spoons and cut bait on the beaches. "I'm surprised the bluefish haven't eaten all the pompano," he said. Henry told us that the trout bite is centered around the power plant. Snook fishing is picking up. "To catch a snook," Henry said, "just pick your favorite bridge." Anglers are catching big linesiders with Flare Hawks after dark. Offshore fishing has been hampered by rough weather, but local skippers report sailfish and dolphin in 100 feet of water while kings are being caught in 60 feet. Bottomfishing has also been good for mutton snapper and grouper in 60 to 80 feet of water. "Cigar minnows are the bait-of-choice," he said.
On the other side of the peninsula, out of Clearwater, Doug Cheatham has been fishing every afternoon for trout and reds. He reported that the reds are in 1 1/2 to 3 feet of water looking for live shrimp or 4-inch DOA jerk bait in Gold Rush with a 1/4 ounce red jig head. "Trout are still holding on the edges of the flats," he said, suggesting anglers use a live shrimp under a popping cork on a 1/0 to 2/0 gold Eagle Claw hook. "Look for them warming up on the sand in 2 feet of water," he adds. Doug says that the rockpiles around the Skyway Bridge are holding mangrove snapper. Anglers are reaching them with a 1/2 ounce jig tipped with a piece of shrimp. Doug added that snook fishing is heating up. Guys are finding the fish anywhere current meets structure. "We're throwing MirrOdines or using large live shrimp," he said. Doug said that greenbacks have been hard to find for bait. "They're in deeper water," he said, "use the fishfinder to locate the schools." Offshore fishing has been good, but the weather has been bad. In the wake of last week's capsizing of a boat carrying a crew of fishermen that included several NFL players, Doug reminds anglers to exercise caution and keep a close eye on the weather. -Ric Burnley
Deep water fishing season is just starting to heat up out of Hubbard's Marina www.hubbardsmarina.com. Jane Turner told us that the fleet has been returning with some huge amberjack and good numbers of mangrove snapper. "One of our anglers caught a 65 pound amberjack," she said. The half day trips have been producing plenty of sea bass and grey snapper. "We've even had a couple octopus," she added. The crew is excited about grouper season opening in March. "Black grouper will open on the 14th and Gags will open at the end of the month," Jane said. Once the fish are available, the boats will start running overnighters to the deep. On another note, snook season will open up on Sunday. Jane told us that the inshore guides are targeting snook, trout, and reds in the backwaters. "We try to cater to everyone," she said.
We tracked down Captain Dave Rogers www.aaahawgwildcharters.com while he was hunting down a school of reds on Mosquito Lagoon. "There's the fish at 10 O'clock," he shouted to his anglers before giving us the report. Dave told us that he was on a pod of almost 400 fish that were pushing water on a shallow mud flat. He said that the reds would only take live shrimp, which his clients were throwing with a medium action spinning rod spooled with 15 pound braid and 20 pound fluorocarbon leader. "We've been following this school all morning," he said. - Ric Burnley