By Rick Grassett
This is a great month for snook on shallow flats. Reds and trout will also be more active as the water warms and baitfish become more plentiful. You might find Spanish mackerel, blues and pompano in passes or on deep grass flats.
Look for Spanish mackerel, false albacore (little tunny), cobia and tripletail in the coastal gulf this month. Tarpon should also make an appearance in back country areas and in the coastal gulf later in the month.
Tarpon will become more plentiful as resident fish make their way out of rivers and creeks, and early-arriving migratory fish will begin to show along beaches — particularly by the end of the month.
Water temperature in the gulf is a key factor with 80 degrees being an optimum temperature. As the water warms toward that, fish will become more plentiful. Resident fish may be rolling on deep grass flats in some of the same places that you find trout, laid up on edges of shallow grass flats or along sand bars. Spin anglers might score with a DOA Shrimp, Baitbuster or 4-inch CAL Shad Tail, while fly anglers might connect with a black Deceiver or Tarpon Bunny fly. Keep your tarpon tackle rigged and ready this time of year so you’re able to take advantage of any opportunity that arises.
Snook and reds remain closed to harvest south of State Road 64 in Manatee County on the west coast of Florida, south 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 boat limit. Trout must be from 15 to 19 inches with one allowed per vessel over 19 inches. Full regulations and details can be viewed at myfwc.com.
Snook should be staging on flats, around sand and oyster bars, on points of islands and around docks and bridges close to passes in the Intracoastal Waterway. Spin anglers should score with CAL jigs and a variety of plastic tails including the 4-inch CAL Shad, DOA Baitbusters, or surface-walking top-water plugs, like the DOA PT. Fish the edges of bars and potholes when the tide is low and mangrove shorelines or points of islands when the tide is high.
You’ll also find snook around docks and bridges in the Intracoastal Waterway. Night snook fishing should be productive with small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow fly, CAL jigs with shad tails and jerk worms, DOA Shrimp and Tiny TerrorEyz. Fish peak tidal flows for the best action.
Reds will spend more time feeding on shallow flats due to more plentiful bait. I am seeing a decline in reds and big trout in shallow water in many of the areas that I fish, which makes them even harder to catch with lures and flies. Look for them in potholes, the edges of bars and around docks when the tide is low. You should find them higher on flats over shallow grass or around mangrove shorelines when the tide is high. I like a 1/16-ounce CAL jig with a shad tail or jerk worm for reds in shallow water. They are easy to fish in shallow water, come in multiple colors and are a good way to find reds. My Grassett Flats Minnow is my “go-to” fly for reds. It fishes well in shallow water and its bend-back design makes it very weedless.