By Capt. Rick Grassett
Trout and redfish should be good shallow-water options this month. You may also find trout along with blues, Spanish mackerel, pompano and flounder on deep grass flats. Look for sheepshead, flounder, reds and more around docks.
Catch-and-release night snook fishing around lighted docks in the Intracoastal Waterway may be a good option if it’s not too cold. Spanish and king mackerel and cobia may show up in the coastal gulf by the end of the month.
Snook and reds remain closed to harvest south of State Road 64 in Manatee County to the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds and snook are catch-and-release-only in that zone until May 31.
Spotted seatrout has reopened in that zone with a three-fish-per-person bag limit and a six-fish per boat limit. Trout must be from 15 to 19 inches with one allowed per vessel above 19 inches. Full regulations and details can be viewed at myfwc.com.
Since snook are temperature sensitive, I won’t target them following strong fronts when water temperatures dip below 60 degrees. However, I have had some great night trips catching and releasing snook on flies in the Intracoastal Waterway at night this time of year. Since larger baitfish aren’t that plentiful this time of year, snook will gorge themselves on glass minnows and shrimp. Small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow, DOA Shrimp, DOA Tiny TerrorEyz, or CAL Jigs with shad tails and jerk worms will all work well.
You may also find snook in rivers, creeks or canals this month. Fishing may be good in these areas on a blustery day when it isn’t fit to fish anywhere else. I like wider profile flies and lures in these areas due to the baitfish that may be found there. Fly anglers should score with wide profile baitfish patterns, such as Lefty’s Deceiver, fished on a sink tip fly line. Spin anglers should do well with CAL jigs and 4-inch swim baits and jerk worms, DOA Baitbusters or suspending plugs. Fish the deep spots, usually on outside bends, for the best action.
You might find reds in potholes or along the edges of bars and shallow flats when the tide is low. As the tide rises, they will feed higher on shallow flats, particularly on sunny afternoons. I like 1/16-ounce CAL jigs with shad tails or jerk worms for reds in shallow water.
If it is too shallow or grassy to fish an exposed hook, a Mustad or Owner weedless hook will allow you to fish plastic baits in these areas. Fly anglers should score with lightly weighted flies, like Clousers or my Grassett Flats Minnow, with weed guards on floating lines with 10- to 12-foot leaders. You may also find big trout in skinny water in the same places you find reds. The same lures, flies and techniques that you use to target reds will work for big trout in those areas.
I release all over-slot trout since they are usually females and I feel that they are important to the health of our trout fishery.