Florida Fishing Report

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The weather has been nothing short of spectacular. Clouds of bait pods are sprinkling just offshore and all over the local flats. The vernal equinox has passed and the lower than low tides of winter have now yielded to spring flood tides. Inshore species are feeding in an unguarded fury. The time has come, the time is now.

Multiple West Coast slams (snook, redfish, trout) are the daily norm aboard the Bounty Hunter the past two weeks. Not just your everyday “slam”, but big slams with reds exceeding 35 inches, trout to 28 and snook to 39.

Tom Ross had to "walk the plank" to save his jumbo snook from finding freedom on some jagged rip raff and secure this maximum slam.

Redfish are providing the major thrills the past two weeks with some days seeing over 30 fish (most all over-sized) boated. Naturally some tides are better than others or the fish are spooky and near impossible to approach. Thus, the bag may slip to just a half dozen, but overall it has been a phenomenal two weeks with the “bulls” of the flats.

 Trout started off very strong two weeks ago and have slowed somewhat the past week. Then catching 30 to 50 fish per day was typical and daily limits were met in just under an hour on most days in my south range. To my northern range they have been starting to show slowly, but surely. Likely the next dark moon will see the big “north” bite we anticipate in mid spring. For now the open flats are providing some fish as well as the barrier islands.

Snook are popping where they can be found. I’ve had to put in some extra time (definitely not banker hours) and scrape my way into to some of my "off the  mainline" spots to get them this year. Each year it gets a little tougher with the species that was once my bread and butter. As of recent, coming up with a half dozen has been par, with an exceptional day seeing a dozen. I have excepted now that yesteryear is now just that. I hold dear to my heart and count my blessings on all I have been fortunate to experience in our tiny neck of the woods. They may very well never happen in this area again. We can only hope the new state regulations will help this most valued prize, but in non-spawning mecca such as ours, I remain uncertain.

While I have not fooled around with them, the Spanish mackerel just offshore must be swarming. Near each day we are taking a few on inshore rock out croppings and can only mean there is a blitz going on in their more likely theater of habitat. Mixed in as well will be the pathfinder kingfish heading the pack on their northern migration. Reports have been sporadic with the kings and it is safe to say the main body has not arrived yet or as typical in the spring, they are passing further offshore. One thing is for certain, the bait is in place once they arrive.

Chad and Christy Buckner are all smiles in displaying a fraction of their catch and another West Coast Slam

During the full moon the cobia that played a Houdini after the last significant cold front seemed to filter back in to some degree. Anglers drifting the open flats for trout, while chumming for bait or while fishing your favorite swash, should be prepared for cruising fish at all times. Otherwise, the old stand by of anchoring up, chumming and floating suspended baits, as well as cruising the flats/beaches and fishing by sight, gets the nod.

John Orsulak is becoming a salty snooker as a favorite guest aboard the Bounty Hunter. Here another jumbo obliges to John's efforts.
The silver gladiator is on the minds of most anglers now with consistent water temperatures. I can say, though not reliably, giant tarpon have begun to appear in the area the past week. As always, the best fishing will occur around deeper water, structure, and bait. We are now just 2 weeks outside the peak of the giant tarpon season. With good weather, water quality and the abundance of bait, 2002 appears to be another typical year in the Giant Tarpon Capitol of the World.

The flats have been exceptionally busy the past two weeks. While the information on “how to” experience the most exciting fishery of the flats is abundant, often some teachings of ethics are overlooked. Without sounding like an old school teacher, there is a lot of water out there------spread out, give wide berth and use common sense. While rights to use the water belong to everyone, the rights to ruin it for anyone is not. Respect it as a sanctuary, and we will all get what we’re looking for…enjoyment.

Screaming Drags and Tired Arms!

Robert McCue


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