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Spring Fishing is at its Best…Now!

Mangrove Snapper caught on Capt. Ray's boat
Mangrove Snapper caught on Capt. Ray’s boat

We’re several weeks into Spring, and if you’re not out fishing or on the water, you’re missing the boat–figuratively, if not literally. The action up and down the Suncoast is exceptional. Sarasota Bay is fired up with huge trout on the flats, reds around the mangroves, and snook that are poking around Longboat Pass, New Pass, and just inside these areas as they get ready for the spawn beginning next month. Just about everything has come alive here over the past several weeks.
Cold fronts are barely a mention on the news other than we may get a little rain and wind, but the cold seems to be a thing of the past. Water temperatures offshore are hitting the low 70’s…perfect for everything, and the pelagic push is on! Spanish mackerel have been all over the place, and kings are showing up on the offshore reefs. Groupr are biting and mangrove snapper are lighting up! Bait schoos are pushing inshore, moving everything that swims within range of a John Boat. Inshore water temperatures bounce between 74 and 76 degrees. Fish are feeding at all depths ranging from the surface to the bottom. It would seem that there’s not much you can do wrong right now if you’re fishing, because fish are chewing.
Topwater lures are exciting to throw. Fish blow up on a zig zagging lure, like a MirrOlure Top Dog, Rapala Skitterwalk, or a prop bait like the Devil’s Horse or 5M MirrOlure, but jigs bumped along the bottom still work their magic and bring home the lion’s share of fish. But who is working the middle of the water column? Well, for sure, the fish are, and suspending baits like the Rapala Twitch ‘N Rap, Sebile Stick Shad, and MirrOlure MirrOdine take the honors for the top notch baits in the middle of the road.
The expectation of tarpon arriving is about the only fish we have to look forward to that’s not consistently caught right now, but a number of fish have shown around the Skyway and a few have been caught, and that melee of fishing is right around the corner. Permit on the reefs that normally show in greater numbers later are here but the bulk of that fishery comes on strong over the next few months like tarpon do.
One species that has been overlooked, mainly because it was considered one not readily caught on hook and line but by divers spearing is the hogfish. Anglers have figured out that using a small #1 hook with minimal weight and small live shrimp is the way to go for these tasty fish. For weeks, reports of anglers catching hogfish in about 50-feet of water were the buzz, and that shouldn’t change for this fish that’s prime on the plate but hush hush on the docks.
This is Spring! And for what it’s worth, before the heat of Summer sets in, getting on the water is what’s happening. Fishing is outstanding, and the air and water are very comfortable. ‘Til then…I’ll catch ya later!