5 Spring Flings

Looking for some fast, dependable spring fishing? Check out our selection of early-season hot spots from around the coast, complete with a list of guides, tackle shops, launch ramps and more.

September 21, 2007
San Pablo stripers are suckers for small Rat-L-Traps.

San Pablo Bay, California

For anglers still afflicted with cabin fever, there’s no better way to jumpstart the season than by pursuing stripers in the southern portion of San Pablo Bay and into San Francisco Bay. In fact, the action has been outstanding the last few years, thanks to a huge resurgence in the striper population, especially with younger fish in the two- to five-pound range and enough ten- to 15-pounders to keep you guessing. These small and scrappy fish are aggressive and hungry, and that translates into lots of action.

Schoolie bass love to feed in the shallows, making them perfect targets for light-tackle fans working from smaller boats in the 14- to 20-foot range. One of the best spots to find the action, particularly at the start of the spring season, is lower San Pablo Bay and south to Bluff Point along the Marin shoreline. This large stretch of coastline can be accessed within minutes by launching from the Loch Lomond Marina in San Rafael or from the Richmond Marina on the eastern shore. Within the scope of these waters can be found a mix of rocky points and shorelines, shallow flats, coves and islands that host good numbers of fish.

The game plan can include casting lures with your favorite light-tackle outfit or trolling. I’ve had very good results using white bucktail jigs from 1/2 to 3/4 ounce. Other favorites are 1/2 -ounce Rat-L-Traps in black and silver, blue and silver, and chartreuse. Fish Trap swimbaits have also become very popular, especially the Channel Island Anchovy pattern in the 1/2- to 3/4-ounce size. If you’re a fly fisherman, you won’t be disappointed, as stripers love to clobber streamers. A nine-foot, nine- to 11-weight setup rigged with a leadcore or sinking shooting head will do the job.


Bucktail jigs account for their share of bass when worked along the bay’s rocky shorelines.|

Small bass will crowd the shoreline shallows when searching for food, and a very good place to start your search for them is the rocky stretch along Point San Pedro and west of there at the Brickyard. This area produces best near the top of the high tide and the first couple hours of the outgoing tide. It’s a popular spot for both casters and trollers.

The area just east of Point San Pedro and the Sister Islands will hold transient fish, and is productive during outgoing tides. Bass will station themselves in the current eddies that form behind the islands’ rocky edges. Approach within casting range and then hold position while casting bucktail jigs or swimbaits into current seams.


Traveling east from the Sisters, a couple of miles across the bay, will bring you to another pair of islands called the Brothers. Like the Sisters, these islands fish best on outgoing tides, but can also produce on the incoming. Hungry bass will set up ambush lanes as they position themselves in the current eddies that form behind the rocky points. Cast and move, working along the shoreline until you find fish.

### Tackle ShopsLoch Lomond Live Bait House San Rafael, (415) 456-0321 Western Boat & Tackle San Rafael, (415) 454-4177 Western Sport Shop San Rafael, (415) 456-5454 HI’s Tackle Box San Francisco, (415) 221-3825 Outdoor Pro Shop Rohnert Park, (707) 588-8033### Launch RampsWest Side of San Francisco Bay Loch Lomond Marina (110 Loch Lomond Dr., 2 miles east of San Rafael on San Pedro Rd.) Buck’s Landing San Rafael (685 North San Pedro Rd.) Clipper Yacht Harbor Sausalito (foot of Harbor Dr.)East Side of San Francisco Bay Richmond Marina South Richmond (1340 Marina Way) Rodeo Marina Rodeo (13 Pacific St.)### Fishing RegulationsCalifornia Department of Fish & Game Central Coast Region (707) 944-5500; Fishing OrganizationsCalifornia Striped Bass Association United Anglers Northern California GuidesCapt. Barry Canevaro (916) 777-6498; Capt. John Badger (707) 469-7585; Capt. Jim Cox (650) 369-3807 Capt. Mike Harbarth (707) 829-4728

If you would rather use bait, try drifting live shiners or anchovies on the bottom during the incoming tide. Start your drift near the east island and drift east towards the red No. 2 buoy. If you don’t get bit, reel up and start over again.

Just east of the Brothers, across the narrow channel, is Point San Pablo. The remains of an old whaling station still stand on the point, which is studded with old pilings and riprap. Action can be had on both sides of the tide, but the ebb can be especially good. Again, throwing jigs, plugs or swimbaits up close to structure will generate strikes.


Traveling southwest, good action can be had at the Marin Islands in very shallow water. Roving bass will cruise the perimeter of the islands, and action is available on the top of the tide and a couple of hours into the ebb.

Continuing south, just below the San Rafael Richmond Bridge, is Red Rock. It features a smattering of coves, submerged rocks and rocky points, all of which make it a favorite hangout for bass. Incoming tides will produce, but the ebb is generally better, as it creates turbulent current eddies along the island’s irregular edges. Casters do very well here using bucktail jigs or swimbaits in the 3/4- and one-ounce sizes. Be patient, as you may have to wait a bit for the fish to move through. Once they do, the action can be fast and furious. This spot can produce fish in the ten- to 20-pound range, so rig accordingly and don’t let your guard down.

If the wind picks up from the northwest, head south and get in the lee of the Marin shoreline. The shoreline from Paradise Cay to Bluff Point offers good protection and good fishing all along its irregular length. Jig or fly casters should target the points, coves and pilings, especially during outgoing tides. You can hit good bunches of fish here, so be ready. – Angelo Cuanang


The Laguna Madre is famous for producing huge speckled trout, including the Texas state record.|

Laguna Madre, Texas

The Laguna Madre, located on the southern end of the Texas coast, is a huge, hypersaline lagoon that stretches for 110 miles and encompasses over 600 square miles of water. It also happens to offer some of the best shallow-water fishing on the Gulf Coast. Few other places outside of South Florida provide anglers with the opportunity to catch speckled trout, redfish, flounder, snook and tarpon – all in the same day.

The Laguna begins at Corpus Christi and continues on down to the Mexican border. It is basically divided into an upper section and a lower section. The former includes sprawling Baffin Bay, which has produced two state-record trout. The lower section is where most anglers prefer to fish, and offers the best chance to catch all the major game species during spring and summer.

Baffin Bay is a top destination among trophy-trout anglers in March, April and May. Small wonder when you consider that the current state-record trout of 13.69 pounds was caught here, as well as a 15-pound, six-ounce fish taken on fly. Some of the prime big-trout spots include Starvation Pocket, the North Shore of Alazan Bay, South Rocks, Kennedy Point and Kleberg Point. Since the entire bay is very shallow, most anglers choose to wade after reaching a secluded area by boat. While underway, be on the lookout for concentrations of baitfish, such as mullet, which attract big trout. Once you find a likely area, get out and wade while casting topwaters and slow-sinking, mullet-imitatin plugs. The state-record trout was caught on a white/ chartreuse Corky, a slow- sinking soft-plastic plug that’s about four inches long. Another productive lure for this area is a MirrOlure Top Dog in chartreuse or bone.

### GuidesCapt. Bruce Shuler (956) 944-4000 Capt. Walt Kittleberger (956) 944-2387 Capt. David Flores (956) 867-2621 Capt. Bill Jarrard (800) 683-3390 Capt. Eric Glass (956) 761-2878 Capts. Scott & Kathy Sparrow (956) 748-4350### LodgingUpper Laguna/Baffin Bay Cast ‘n Stay (361) 297-5636, Capt. Carl’s Guide Service and Floating Cabins (800) 368-8175Middle Laguna/Port Mansfield Get-A-Way Adventures Lodge (956) 944-4000; www.getawayadventureslodge.comLower Laguna/Arroyo City Kingfisher Inn (956) 748-4350, Area InformationCorpus Christi (361) 881-1800; South Padre Island (956) 761-4412; Port Mansfield (956) 944-2354 Bait Camps/Marinas/RampsJim’s Pier and Marina (956) 761-2865 Fisherman’s Wharf and Marina (956) 761-7818 Harbor Bait and Tackle (956) 944-2367 Port Mansfield Marina (956) 944-2331 Southpoint Marina (956) 943-7926### RegulationsTexas Parks & Wildlife Department (800) 792-1112; Fishing GroupsCoastal Conservation Association (713) 626-4234; Texas Recreational Fishing Alliance (361) 463-1558;

The Laguna is a fly fisherman’s paradise, especially when it comes to stalking tailing reds in 12 inches of water and sight-casting to world-class trout. The best sight-casting often takes place on flats located next to guts and channels.

Prime months for snook and tarpon fishing are April and May. One of the top areas for snook is the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, a major chunk of land along the southern end of the lagoon. Many snook are caught on the flats here, as well as in the deeper pockets and channels. The mangroves around the east entrance to South Bay, as well as the Brownsville Ship Channel, are other productive spots. When fishing the latter, use a trolling motor to ease along the drop-off. Snook here run from two to 15 pounds, and will take a variety of soft-plastic jigs and topwaters, such as the Zara Spook in mullet pattern.

Tarpon fishing is productive in the deep channels and along the jetties at Port Isabel and Port Mansfield. At the latter spot, work the 30 miles of surf between the two sets of jetties, and keep an eye out for working birds to put you on the action. Another good bet is the Arroyo Colorado, on the south side of the lagoon. It’s a tidal channel that fishes best in the spring. Best lures for Laguna tarpon, which range from 20 top 150 pounds, include large Rat-L-Traps and slow-sinking MirrOlures in red/white or chartreuse. Best flies are 1/0 and 2/0 Clouser minnows and Deceivers in pilchard pattern.

As mentioned, a favorite destination for many anglers is Port Mansfield, located roughly at the mid-point of the lagoon. Great flats fishing is just a short distance away, so you don’t have to run that far to find trout and tailing reds, especially during March, April and May. Good spots include West Bay, Gladys Hole, and many of the “drains” along the King Ranch shoreline. Soft-plastic, eel-type jigs in white/red, bone or chartreuse/white work well for trout, reds and flounder in this area, as do Assassins and Yum soft-plastics. Some of the best trout fishing occurs along the spoil banks and grass flats just off the Intracoastal Canal. Here, tie on a Super Spook Jr. or a Knucklehead Jr., two topwaters that draw strikes from big trout and reds. By the way, one of the best tactics for finding and catching trout, reds and flounder on the Laguna is to run the Intracoastal and work the grass flats that hold lots of baitfish, such as minnows, shad and mullet. – Robert Sloan

Upper Biscayne Bay is an urban setting, but the action with seatrout, jacks, tarpon, snook and more can be phenomenal.|

Upper Biscayne Bay, Florida

When most fishermen Think of Biscayne bay, they think of bonefish and permit. Fishing for these two species is world-class on the grass flats in the southern part of the bay. Even though it lies in the shadow of Miami, this ocean-washed area is rich in marine grasses and seems light years away from civilization.

To the north, however, the scene changes dramatically. Development begins snowballing above the Rickenbacker Causeway, peaking with the numerous condominium complexes in North Miami Beach’s Maul Lake/Dumbfoundling Bay area. Unlike its southern reaches, the waters here are just about landlocked, and therefore are subject to less tidal flushing. This results in a totally different marine ecosystem, but one that manages to produce outstanding action with a host of inshore favorites.

North Biscayne Bay sees far less fishing pressure than its southern reaches, yet it serves as home to seatrout, snook, tarpon, jack crevalle, mangrove snapper and even Spanish mackerel. Success here revolves around being versatile and mobile, so be prepared to change plans and keep moving from spot to spot until you find fish.

The North Bay seatrout population seems to be on the rise since the Florida net ban, which is also credited with a huge increase in the amount of baitfish that passes through the system. These days it’s common to catch a few dozen trout per day by working the grass flats on either side of the bay, from Broad Causeway (125th St.) to Julia Tuttle Causeway (36th St.). Productive west-side grass beds can be found between the Jockey Club at 111th St. and Mike Gordon’s restaurant at 79th St. More trout beds exist halfway between the 79th St. and 36th St. bridges. Productive east-side grasses can be located between Indian Creek down to the Biscayne Monument.

### GuidesThe following guides specialize in light-tackle skiff fishing in the North Bay. For the names and numbers of other guides who fish the Miami area, see “The Traveling Fishermen” section of the Web site by clicking here.Capt. Alan Sherman (305) 757-5503, Capt. Gavet Tuttle (954) 448-1211, Capt. Alex Rodriguez (786) 412-4859, Bait & TackleHaulover Marine Center North Miami Beach, (305) 945-3934 Tarpon Tackle Sunny Isles, (305) 948-9397### RampsHaulover Marine Center 15000 Collins Ave., North Miami Beach 79th Street Boat Ramp Biscayne Bay at 79th St.### RegulationsFlorida Fish & Wildlife Conservation (850) 487-0554;

Unlike the huge “gator” trout that live in central Florida’s fertile Indian River Lagoon system, a five-pounder is considered “big” in North Biscayne Bay. However, what these fish lack in size they make up for in aggressiveness. Best live baits include pilchard, finger mullet, small pinfish and medium to large shrimp dangled beneath popping corks or floats and rigged on 30-pound mono or fluorocarbon leaders. Small soft-plastics such as the Mann’s Sting Ray Grub (yellow is a hot color) and jerkbaits rigged on 1/4-ounce jigheads will draw plenty of action, too. If you want to target larger trout, go with a walk-the-dog-style surface plug. The Yo-Zuri Hydro Pencil in gold/bronze is a good bet. Work the plug over sand holes and along the edges of the grass flats. While a strike could come at any time of day, best topwater action generally occurs around sunrise and sunset, and when it’s raining. Use a 40-pound leader when fishing surface plugs in case a snook decides to crash the party.

For sheer light-tackle fun, it’s hard to beat Biscayne Bay’s jacks, which are getting larger and more plentiful every year. All that’s required to score are a pair of sharp eyes to spot some surface activity and a fast boat to race to the scene. Once you get there, practically any surface plug or live bait will produce strikes. Jacks can sometimes be chummed up with live baits near Haulover and Government Cuts. Best tackle includes eight- to 12-pound baitcasting gear with 30-pound leaders. If you’re specifically targeting jacks on plugs, mash down the hook barbs to facilitate release. Jack crevalle, incidentally, are also commonly caught while trout fishing, although these fish will likely weigh around a pound or two.

Snook and tarpon are challenging North Bay inhabitants. During winter and spring, the former lurk around ICW bridges, river mouths (Miami River, Little River, Biscayne River Canal, Oleta River), and well-lighted docks. Swimming plugs fished on 50- to 80-pound fluorocarbon leaders produce around shallow docks and seawalls, whereas plastic-shrimp/jighead combos get the nod for working bottom depressions and around deeper docks, bridge groins and stanchions.

From May through August, snook spawn in Haulover and Government Cuts. Again, jigging scores plenty of fish, as does live-baiting. However, trolling with deep-diving swimming plugs, such as the Rapala CD-18, Yo-Zuri Hydro Magnum and MirrOlure 111 MR, can be the hot ticket. The key is to troll just above the bottom without hanging up. Make sure you’re in the zone by letting out line until the plug bumps bottom, then reel in a few turns.

Exciting action with large tarpon can be had around the ICW bridges and throughout the bay during spring, while smaller fish in the 20- to 40-pound range are year-round residents. Best time to score during the day is right as the sun rises, when fish can be spotted as they roll on the surface. Pitch one a live pilchard and you might find a taker. At night, tarpon are fond of laying up under bridge lights, where they’ll often take a live pilchard, large shrimp or even a small jack drifted back in the current. – George Poveromo

Lynnhaven Bay, Virginia

With miles of tidal creeks, oyster beds, sandy flats and deep channels teeming with fish, Lynnhaven Bay and River in Virginia Beach is a backwater fishing paradise in the middle of the suburbs. Located at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay only a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean, the river serves as a feeding station for all kinds of game fish migrating in and out of the area. In spring, as the water temperature rises into the 50s, fishing in the Lynnhaven really heats up.

### Marinas & Launch RampsLynnhaven Boat Ramp and Beach Facility (757) 460-7590 Bubba’s Marina (757) 481-3513; Long Bay Pointe Boating Resort (757) 321-4550; Lynnhaven Marine (757) 481-0700; Marina Shores (757) 496-7000 ### Tackle ShopsLighthouse Tackle (757) 318-3818 Long Bay Pointe Bait and Tackle (757) 481-7517 Ocean’s East 2 Tackle (757) 464-6544 Raugh Company (757) 363-8320### GuidesCapt. Herb Gordon (757) 464-3974 Capt. Mike Marsala (757) 724-6453 Capt. Steve Wray (757) 481-7517 Capt. Larry Wales (757) 481-4462 Cory Routh (kayak fishing) (757) 403-0734### RegulationsVirginia Marine Resource Commission Fishing Groups & Related LinksVirginia Beach Visitors Bureau Virgina Beach Sport Fishing Tidal Fish Pier and Surf

Small bluefish are the first to arrive. In mid-April these two- to five-pound feeding machines invade the inlet, chasing schools of silversides and bay anchovies. They can often be seen churning the water under a swarm of diving terns. To match the hatch, cast a small, metal spoon such as a Hopkins Shorty or No. 1 Deadly Dick and work it back quickly. This is also a good time to break out the fly rod, as blues are suckers for a small Clouser or bucktail fly.

Sea mullet, croaker and spot pull into town with the blues, offering great light-tackle sport for the whole family. These bottom-feeders love a chunk of bloodworm fished on a two-hook bottom rig and drifted through the deeper holes of Lynnhaven Bay and at the mouth of the inlet.

Early in the spring, flounder will congregate in the channels and sloughs along Keeling Drain and Long Creek. Best bet is to fish a live finger mullet or fresh menhaden on a Carolina rig consisting of a 1/2- to one-ounce egg sinker and 1/0 Kahle hook. Drift along the channel edges and through the deep sloughs to hook up with keeper flatfish. After spending the winter in the ocean, spring-run flounder are hungry and aggressive. They can be caught on artifical lures such as five-inch soft-plastic jigs or 1/2-ounce D.O.A. TerrorEyz baits. On warm, sunny days, the flounder move onto the sandy flats, where they will readily ambush a sinking MirrOlure as it sweeps past.

By the beginning of May, as the water temperature reaches 60 degrees, huge gray trout school up in the deep water around the pilings of Lesner Bridge in Lynnhaven Inlet. Trophy fish weighing over ten pounds can be caught during slack tide by bouncing a two-ounce bucktail or soft-plastic jig along the bottom of the channel. A live finger mullet or chunk of peeler crab worked slowly through the inlet on a Carolina rig will also fool big trout. Be careful to only fish the Chesapeake Bay side of the inlet, as the turning basin on the inland side of Lesner Bridge is closed to fishing.

Puppy drum move into the river and school up on the oyster beds and around docks and pilings along Pleasure House Creek, Long Creek, Broad Bay Passage, and both branches of the Lynnhaven River. Anchor in front of a promising puppy hole on the flood tide and cast a mullet-tipped Carolina rig, soft-plastic jig or MirrOlure into the structure. Since the puppies will feed into the night on a full moon, they provide a good excuse to go fishing after work.

May 16 is the date Virginia anglers wait for all year. This is when the spring striper season opens in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The best places to find rockfish include the inlet, the deep holes around marsh islands, and under the docks that line Broad Bay Passage and Long Creek. Although stripers can be caught during the day, nighttime is prime time. After dark, stripers will start boiling on the surface, attacking silversides and finger mullet that are silhouetted in the light falling from bridges and docks. To imitate a silverside darting across the surface, rig a five-inch Exude bait to a 5/0 worm hook. Cast the lure under the lights, then jerk it back quickly. During the day, replace the worm hook with a 1/2- to two-ounce leadhead jig and work the bait across the bottom. The small rockfish will keep anglers busy into the beginning of summer. – Ric Burnley

The mouth of Narragansett Bay offers plenty of prime structure for anglers seeking tautog, bluefish and stripers in the spring.|

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island

When it comes to dependable and easily accessible fishing destinations, Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay fills the bill. The bay is an easy drive from many cities, and offers plenty of protected spots to fish, no matter which direction the wind blows. Best of all, good fishing is almost guaranteed, especially in late spring and early summer.

Bottom-fishing action kicks off in May, when tautog and scup move into the bay, taking up station around rocky structure, piers, wrecks and jetties in ten to 30 feet of water. Hot spots for both species include Smith Point, Ft. Wetherill, Hulls Cove, Beavertail Point, Rumstick Point, the southern tip of Prudence Island, Conimicut Light, the northern tip of Gould Island, Conanicut Point, the Dumplings, the Coddington Cove breakwater, Rose Island and Hope Island Best baits for ‘tog are green and Asian crabs fished on three-way or dropper rigs, and peak action typically lasts through June. For scup, bits of clam, seaworm or small jigs will do the trick.

### Launch RampsStriper Marina Barrington, (401) 245-6121 Colt State Park Bristol, (401) 253-7482 Independence Park Bristol Bold Point East Providence Haines Park East Providence Fort Getty Rec. Area Jamestown Ft. Adams State Park Newport, (401) 884-2010; Apponaug Harbor Marina Warwick, (401) 739-5005; Greenwich Bay Marina Warwick, (401) 884-1810; Wharf Marina Warwick Goddard Park Warwick, (401) 884-2010; Salter Grove State Park Warwick Weaver Cove Launch Portsmouth Gull Cove Portsmouth### Tackle ShopsOcean State Tackle (401) 751-4827 Archie’s Bait & Tackle (401) 437-2630 Erickson’s Bait & Tackle (401) 739-7437 Lucky Bait & Tackle (401) 247-2223 Ray’s Bait (401) 738-7878 The Saltwater Edge (401) 842-0062; Zeek’s Creek Bait & Tackle (401) 423-1170### GuidesCapt. Jim White (401) 828-9465; Capt. Al Elson (401) 245-6121 Capt. Ray Stachelek (401) 343-6660; Capt. George Guy (401) 568-4766 Capt. Ed Cook (401) 524-5294; Capt. Ed Noll (401) 624-1992; Capt. Rick Cataldi (401) 739-5286; Capt. Glen Vitullo (401) 573-145### RegulationsRI Dept. of Environmental Management (401) 222-6800, Fishing Groups & Related LinksRhode Island Salt Water Anglers Association (401) 826-2121; Reel-Time (On-Line Fishing Journal)**

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