May is here, spring is about gone and summer just around the corner. Water temperatures are about to skyrocket.
Temperatures have been running a tad below normal most of this year. In late April my temperature gauge was hitting 72 degrees on a regular basis and for that reason I’ve been working deeper waters and the sun-exposed mangrove shore lines, much as I did towards the middle of March. I’m looking for a little warmer water where I think the fish would be a bit more comfortable.
The snook bite has been very good most of this spring, and as we move later into May I suspect we will see a down turn in catch reports. If you catch a snook this time of year please be extra careful with your handling procedures. We still need a very good spawning season to help repopulate the species after the devastating cold weather of 2010. Some of the more reputable charter boat operators placed a no-keep snook rule on their boats. I did the same. Snook season closed April 30.
Trout will be up on the grass flats, and the best time to target them will be early morning when the water tends to be a little cooler. I’ve been doing very well catching trout on grass beds in two feet of water early, and then moving to deeper grass as the sun gets higher in the sky. I’ve noticed the fish I’m catching in the deeper waters tend to be either short of 15-inch slot size or just over it. I’m catching bigger trout early in shallower water. The bigger trout tend to be loners, and I’d guess they are moving inshore to some of the deeper pot holes later in the day.
The Spanish mackerel run in Tampa Bay this year has been a little disappointing so far. Although we are catching mackerel, they have not been as consistent as years past. I’m not sure why; maybe it’s just a cycle they’re in. I’ve heard the offshore mackerel bite has been very good, though.
The South Shore flats have been holding some redfish but they haven’t schooled up yet. The redfish we’re catching have been on the lower end of the slot range, averaging around 22 inches. I’ve been working the mangrove shore line and tossing live pilchards into shaded areas. We catch one or two and move on to the next spot.
This is an excellent time to work artificial lures along the mangrove tree lines. I like throwing a gold spoon under the mangroves as I quietly move along the tree-lined shore with my trolling motor or kayak.
This time of year I like to mix it up by targeting redfish and trout on the flats and Spanish mackerel in open bay waters. White bait is my bait of choice.
Be safe out there.
Danny Guarino is one of three Ruskin-based fishing guides and charter captains who share this column. He can be reached at (813) 956-2010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.