Late March Fishing Reports for West Central Florida

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Cooler water temps and blue skies bring awesome sight fishing opportunities to those anglers willing to push pole or wade fish shallow flats on high sun. The lower tides in March and typical NE breezes should provide a few tailing redfish days and big trout opportunities.

You’ll also experience good action on both Sheepshead & Ladyfish if you are looking for a more reliable targets. These two species are in most residential canal systems or nearby flats. And can be caught on natural bait, artificials or fly.

Here’s some more action you can expect in the shallows:

Sea Trout-      Expect larger Sea Trout to move shallow on post cold front conditions. You’ll see them sunning in less than 18″ of water in shallow potholes looking to take out an unsuspecting finger mullet. I like to target these big specks with slow walking topwater plugs (Top Dog Jr #11) or the venerable Paul Brown Original Floater. Another good choice is the recently released Zman Trout Trick (Green Lantern) rigged on a 4/0 Mustad Grip-Pin hook. The most important aspect with all these lures is to make sure the tempo is slow, very slow if you want good results!

Redfish- Redfish action is reliable this time of year as the Reds cruise the shallow flats on incoming water looking for crabs and shrimp. In low light, you can swing a search lure like the Aqua Dream Spoon (Gold or Black Nickel). But once the sun gets high, switch over to the Zman Shrimpz (Redbone) on a 3/0 Mustad Grip-Pin hook or the Zman BTB Jig (Rootbeer/Gold) slowly working the potholes in 1′ to 3′ of water. Remember to focus on flats with lots of wading birds… that’s a good barometer for the redfish potential!

Snook-  Get into the back bays for the linesider action! I’ve had some solid results on Mirrolure’s Mirrominnow and the Zman 3″ Minnowz (Gold Rush), slow twitching and rolling on dark muddy bottoms. The snook get pretty shallow in the backwater so stealth is critical for consistent success. I recommend quietly push poling or wading to these laid up snook to maximize your opportunities. It’s also smart to use at least 30lb. shock leader because of the rough mouth on a snook plus there are plenty of snags under the mangroves.

Flounder-  Plenty of these guys around bridges and docks right now. Dragging buck tail or paddle tail jigs on 3/8 oz. heads. Use plenty of Pro-cure Scent and then slow hop or drag close to sea bottom for best results. Most flounder have been running between 12″ to 18″ but the occasional doormat size is possible around the bridge pilings close to the Passes with good flow!

Here’s a quick reminder, Flats Class TV is celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year! All the action kicks off this April with episodes from the Everglades, Charlotte Harbor and Mosquito Lagoon. Catch all the action on Destination America, Sun Sports and our new online partner Waypoint Outdoors (www.waypointoutdoors.com)!

Lastly, please join the CCA and participate in this year’s CCA Star Tournament lots of incredible prizes that include a new HB Skiff, Contender Bay Boat and much more… we need your participation, voice and support, CCA protects our valuable resource & fishing rights! Let’s all get involved and stop tragedies like the toxic pumping from Big Sugar in south Florida.

Until next time, keep them rods bent folks!

July Fishing Report for Tampa Bay

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It has been crazy hot the past few days, with water temps in the 90’s, yet fishing is still good in our local waters. Tarpon & Sharks are great mid-summer targets but beach snook and wreck permit are getting a lot of attention to by many anglers!

Additionally, scallop season has cranked up and it looks like another banner year is possible along the Nature Coast region.

Here’s some of the action you can expect in the shallows:

Trout-  Fish shallow in pre-dawn hours 4am to 6am with Mirrolure She Pups or Mirro-Minnows… the big trout are roaming flats during cooler water temp periods. After sunrise, go deeper where grass flats have 6+ feet with Mirrolure’s 52’s and Zman Pogyz on 1/4 oz. jig head. Trout are still spawning and voracious eaters so the bite should be excellent through the summer months. This will be the pattern for the next 60 days likely!

unnamedRedfish- Higher tides and water temps mean that redfish will be cruising the shade of mangrove islands! So start skipping those bushes to catch summer Reds. I prefer using the Zman Scented Jerk Shadz on a 5/0 EWG rigging hook. Best colors for this scenario are Gold Rush or Pearl… don’t be surprised if a snook busts these baits either. Super low tide will bring redfish off the edge of flats at sunset this month. Try tossing the Zman Shrimpz in Nite Glow or Red Bone colors in front of the big schools and hang on. Take time to release these bruisers carefully because warm water temps could kill them after a long battle on rod!

Snook-  The best play will be fishing the Swash channels and passes early & late. The beach is perfect for tossing flies, small buck-tails and the smaller Mirrolure profiles like the Mirro-Glass or Mini-Dine. The deeper pass zones are perfect for the Zman Swimmerz & Grass Kickerz on 3/8 or 1/2 ounce jig heads. Lighter colors that match bottom are best or imitate baitfish. Night time dock fishing is hot to right now with snook feeding voraciously in lights… Flies and small buck tail jigs dominate. Please practice catch and release with these fish and handle with care, it’s nice to see them rebounding.

Sharks- easy to target in summer months with fresh cut bait, threadfins and ladyfish work well but cut up Spanish Macks is preferred. Just find a good drop off adjacent to flats where current will carry chum downtide and the sharks will show up in no time at all. Have a hook out tool at the ready and take great care when the shark comes boat side because these beasts are unpredictable in nature.

Tarpon-  It’s starting to wind down now but plenty can still be caught for the patient angler. Mirrolure TTR and Catch 2000’s in Purple and Chartruese Fire are excellent on the beach. Also, the Zman 7″ Jerk Shadz on a Beast Swim Bait hook from owner (keel weighted) or the Zman Fattyz on a 6/0 Circle Hook 4X strong (nose hooked). On the live bait side, nothing beats live crabs under a float… best action is at the Skyway Bridge and Egmont Key on outgoing tides!

Here’s a quick reminder, The new episodes of Flats Class TV (Season 9) have already cranked up on both Sun Sports (Fox South) 8am and Discovery’s “Destination America” 7:30a networks!

Lastly, please consider joining the CCA and participating in the new CCA Star Tournament lots of incredible prizes that include a new HB Skiff, Pathfinder Bay Boat and much more… we need your participation, voice and support, CCA protects our resource & fishing rights! Let’s all get involved!

Until next time, keep them rods bent folks!

June Tampa Fishing Report

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Summertime fishing usually finds anglers chasing tarpon and snook on the beaches along the west coast of Florida. So far, this has been an epic season with great weather making for perfect conditions to catch these majestic fish.

Additionally, there is plenty of action nearshore with Spanish Macks, Permit and Cobia. Most inshore fishing needs to be done in the early morning hours now with water temps being so high… by 11am your done.

Here’s some of the action you can expect in the shallows:

Trout- Fish shallow in pre-dawn hours with Mirrolure She Dogs or 7M’s… the big trout are roaming flats during cooler water temp periods. After sunrise, go deeper where grass flats have 6+ feet with Mirrolure’s 52’s and Zman Pogyz on 1/4 oz. jig head. Trout are still spawning and voracious eaters so the bite should be excellent through the summer months.

Redfish- Higher tides and water temps mean that redfish will be cruising the shade of mangrove islands! So start skipping those bushes to catch summer Reds. I prefer using the Zman Scented Jerk Shadz on a 5/0 EWG rigging hook. Best colors for this scenario are Gold Rush or Pearl… don’t be surprised if a snook busts these baits either! Docks along beach communities will also hold good numbers of redfish too. Zman Minnowz on 1/4 oz. jig heads will be deadly, best colors are Opening Night and Houdini.

Snook- The best play will be fishing the Swash channels and passes early & late. The beach is perfect for tossing flies, small buck-tails and the smaller Mirrolure profiles. The deeper pass zones are perfect for the Zman Swimmerz & Grass Kickerz on 3/8 or 1/2 ounce jig heads. Lighter colors that match bottom are best or imitate baitfish. Please practice catch and release with these fish and handle with care, it’s nice to see them rebounding.

poonTarpon- It’s prime time right now! Mirrolure TTR and Catch 2000’s in Purple and Chartruese Fire are excellent. Also, the Zman 7″ Jerk Shadz on a Beast Swim Bait hook from owner (keel weighted) or the Zman Fattyz on a 6/0 Circle Hook 4X strong (nose hooked). On the live bait side, nothing beats Live crabs! The beaches, Skyway, Egmont Key and (bar-none the best area for tarpon) Bean Point near Anna Maria Island are on fire right now…

Here’s a quick reminder, The new episodes of Flats Class TV (Season 9) have already cranked up on both Sun Sports (Fox South) 8am and Discovery’s “Destination America” 7:30a networks!

Lastly, please consider joining the CCA and participating in the CCA Star Tournament lots of incredible prizes that include a new HB Skiff, Pathfinder Bay Boat and much more… we need your participation, voice and support, to protect our resource & fishing rights! Let’s get involved Flats Class fans!

Until next time, keep them rods bent!

May Fishing Report for Tampa Bay

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It got hot quick, I’m talking about the weather and the fishing… whew! The snook bite has been the best in years and there are plenty of redfish stacked up in the potholes in all areas of Tampa Bay. And lookout, tarpon are next with these warm water temps along the coast.

Additionally, there is plenty of action nearshore with Kingfish, Spanish Macks and Bluefish. And I’ve been able to put a few clients on some nice Cobia north of the Bay Area but I’ve seen a few big Cobes around Gandy area as well.

Here’s some of the action you can expect in the shallows:

Trout– Now that water temps are getting really warm, you might want to target the big trout with a Mirrolure She Dog or Zman Pop Shadz in the pre-dawn hours. Once the sun gets high slide off into 4′ to 6′ of water and toss Mirrolure 52M’s or Heavy Dines for more consistent action on the specks or try the Zman Shrimpz under a popping cork on a 1/8 ounce jig head. The lower end of Tampa Bay or St. Joseph’s Sound will be the best zones to target in May.

Redfish– The water is super clear around our area right now so the Redfish have been pretty spooky! Especially with all the redfish tournament pressure keeping them on the move. Focus on flats that get a little more wind and are somewhat deeper 2′ to 3′ where the redfish will be more relaxed. Straight crank a Zman Minnowz in either “Redbone” or ” Houdini” on a 1/4 ounce jig head and you should be able to catch a few nice reds. If you are sight fishing the shallows, use the new BTB Jig in “Rootbeer/Gold”… just lead the sighted red by a few feet on the cast and drag the jig on the bottom. The redfish can resist this presentation, I promise!

IMG_3173Cobia– I’m seeing a few bigger Southern Stingrays cruising the flats of Tampa Bay and further north in Pasco & Hernando Counties. Often you’ll see a Cobia or two piggybacking these rays and eager to hit a well placed jig! My best producer is the 1/4 ounce BTB Jig in ” Houdini” with a 3″ trailer attached to make profile look bigger. Add a little Pro Cure “Crab” scent to jig and its really academic once the Cobia sees the jig… just hang on!

Snook– Best bite in years for snook enthusiasts, in fact last week my client Lacey Carpenter (see pic above) caught a 42″ monster snook on a “Rootbeer/Gold” 4″ Paddlerz in Tampa Bay! Try a surface lure at dawn or dusk like the Mirrolure Top Dog Jr. or a Mirrolure 7M on flats with deeper water close by… that’s important. During the brighter hours you have to fish in the deeper cuts that have some moving water with swim baits like Zman Swimmerz, Paddlerz, or Diezel Minnowz on 1/4 to 3/8 weighted hooks/Jig heads. All areas of Tampa Bay hold snook so action is widespread but the lower end of Bay will produce best moving into the summer. Please practice catch and release with these fish and handle with care, it’s nice to see them rebounding.

Tarpon– They are not here in great numbers yet. But, there are a few rolling around Bay Area bridges every morning now. Stay tuned, by Mother’s Day this month it should be as good as it gets! Most importantly, be patient and courteous to other tarpon anglers, that way we all have a chance to catch a silver king.

Here’s a quick reminder, The new episodes of Flats Class TV (Season 9) have already cranked up on both Sun Sports (Fox South) and Discovery’s “Destination America” networks! The next episode (#4) features a trip with Power Pole’s, John Oliverio, catching snook with me in Charlotte Harbor on a variety of artificial baits. Lots of tips and tactics in this new episode! All shows are HD and we have some great footage from the Everglades to the Texas Coast this season… don’t miss an episode.

Lastly, please consider joining the CCA and participating in the upcoming CCA Star Tournament lots of incredible prizes that include a new pickup truck, HB Skiff, Pathfinder Bay Boat and much more… we need your participation, voice and support, to protect our resource & fishing rights! Let’s get involved Flats Class fans!

Until next time, keep them rods bent!

April Fishing Report for Tampa Bay

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Spring is in full swing! The bait has returned to every corner of the Bay Area and so have the predators. Redfish are schooling up again and I’m seeing some bigger groups of snook on barrier islands near mouth of Tampa Bay.

In addition, Kings and Spanish are thick on the beaches and even a few Cobia are showing up around fixed structure. And if things continue tarpon will appear a little early this year…

Here’s some of the action you can expect in the shallows:

Trout- Top water plugs during low-light periods are the best bet to catch a big gator trout. Zman Swimmerz or Jerk Shadz are another good substitute if floating grass is an issue. More action can be found mid-day in a little deeper grass flats with Mirrolure Heavy Dine or Zman Minnows on 1/4 oz. jig head. The lower end of the Bay has been much better for trout action!

Redfish- With so much bait around I’ve been catching redfish on Aqua Dream Spoons (white, silver) and Pro Series Mirrodines with regularity this past week. If you want to throw soft baits the Zman Minnowz on an 1/8 oz. jighead, best colors are “Gold/Rush” or “Advocado/Red Flake”. I’ve focused on the lower tides for reds where the Reds are locked into “pot holes”. Of course, oyster bars are great high tide targets for redfish in the Spring.

Jack Crevalle- They are still here! And, the Bay is loaded with small fry minnows and the schools of medium to large Jack Crevalle are wreaking havoc on them. For the past week my clients have been whacking Jack Crevalle using a variety of Zman soft baits or the Mirrolure Mirro Glass, a small minnow imitation. It’s just about a sure thing if the Jacks start blitzing the bait within your casting range. And on light tackle… you won’t have to catch many before you’ll need some Advil!

Snook- Last week the top water bite around dawn produced a couple of snook each day. The Mirrolure She Pup was definitely the “hot plug” but a fast paced Mirrodine across the surface twitched erratically will get similar results. I’m sure by month’s end the beaches will have a few big ones hanging out near our passes if the water temps continue to warm up this Spring. Best area to focus on snook is Tampa Bay’s south shore… it’s loaded up!

image2 (3)Here’s a quick reminder, The new episodes of Flats Class TV (Season 9) have already cranked up on both Sun Sports (Fox South) and Discovery’s “Destination America” networks! The next episode (#2) features maybe the biggest redfish (50″) we have ever caught on FCTV pitching a bass bait called the Palmetto Bugz. All shows are HD and we have some great footage from the Everglades to the Texas Coast this season… don’t miss an episode.

Lastly, please consider joining the CCA and participating in the upcoming CCA Star Tournament lots of prizes that include a new pickup truck, HB Skiff, and much more… we need your voice and support, Flats Class Fans!

Until next time, keep them rods bent!

March Fishing Report for Tampa Bay

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Can you believe it’s March? It feels like May already… and so do the water temps! Snook are everywhere on the flats and I’ve even noticed some tarpon around the Bay Area bridges.

In addition, there are some monster size Jack Crevalle schools crushing everything in their path around the mid-Bay Area and the Kingfish are all along our coast following bait schools right now. Spring is in full swing for sure!

Here’s some of the action you can expect in the shallows:

Trout- With the warm water temps, I’ve been hitting the big trout scene early just before sunrise with Mirrolure Top Pups in the Bone color or try a Zman Swimmerz 4″ on a 5/0 Rigging hook rolling it high, close to surface to generate explosive strikes. After the sun gets high you’ll have to push into the 3′ to 5′ depths to find more consistent action, the Mirrolure’s Heavy Dine #18 or a Zman Minnowz on a 1/4oz head in Opening Night color will fool them every time.

Redfish- The sight fishing for redfish in the Bay Area doesn’t get much better than it is right now. Blue skies and crystal clear water though do present a few problems with how wary the “rusty raiders” behave in the Spring. My clients have been casting the new Zman BTB Jig 1/8oz in the Houdini & Rootbeer/Gold colors with good results. You just have to swim this little jig over the shallow grass zones and then eventually let it fall into a sandy pot hole, then just slowly drag it across sand. The redfish will knock the rod out of your hands with this retrieve! On windy days, toss a green Aqua Dream Spoon 1/4oz, blind casting and you’ll bust a few good reds as well… don’t forget to add a dab of Pro Cure Scent (Ladyfish).

image2 (2)Jack Crevalle- One of the fun fish to target in the Spring for sure! Currently the Bay is loaded with small fry minnows and the schools of medium to large Jack Crevalle are wreaking havoc on them. For the past week my clients have been whacking Jack Crevalle using a variety of Zman soft baits or the Mirrolure Mirro Glass, a small minnow imitation. It’s just about a sure thing if the Jacks start blitzing the bait within your casting range. And on light tackle… you want have to catch many before you’ll need some Advil!

Black Drum- There are some spawning aggregates of huge Black Drum in the lower end of Tampa Bay right now. Once you locate the school which, quite honestly isn’t that difficult, utilize a 1/4oz to 3/8oz jig head pegged with a Zman Diezel Minnowz loaded up with Pro Cure (Shrimp Scent). It won’t take long before you are buttoned up tight. Please use adequate tackle to fight these fish, not trout gear that takes forever to land a 30 to 40 pound Black Drum!

Snook- This has been best winter/spring for my clients catching snook in a long time. In fact, I had a friend from Texas, fly fishing with me about week ago at Weedon Island and he caught a 34″ on a Clouser Minnow (tan/white)! For this time of year it’s hard to beat a 7M Mirrolure (S) or the old reliable Mirrodines to get the job done during the low light periods (Dawn/Dusk). Skipping Zman Jerk Shadz (Pearl) is pretty darn good to along deeper mangrove shorelines with current…

Here’s a quick reminder, The new episodes of Flats Class TV (Season 9) kick off April 4th on both Sun Sports (Fox South) and Discovery’s “Destination America” networks! All shows are HD and we have some great footage from the Everglades to the Texas Coast this season… don’t miss an episode.

Lastly, please consider joining CCA and participating in the upcoming Star Tournament… we need your voice and support; Flats Class Fans!

Until next time, keep them rods bent!

February Fishing Report for Tampa Bay

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February is here and it’s all about the water temperature and the tide height. I spend a good bit of my time planning my trips around the low incoming tide this month because gamefish get concentrated and are easier to locate. Also, I prefer to get a little later start with clients to so we can take advantage of the warmest portion of the day when water temperature rise and stimulate redfish appetites!

In addition, anglers can count on bigger trout to reside on most shallow grassy flats in the lower region of Tampa Bay along with some snook action on the warming trends near river and creek mouths in the eastern edge of the Bay down to Terra Ceia.

Here’s some of the action you can expect in the shallows:

Trout- It’s definitely Paul Brown Lure time! These baits catch more trophy size Sea Trout for me than any other lure consistently! Work these baits especially the Lil Devil and Original Floater version over and around, sandy potholes and oyster bars with a very slow tempo on the low incoming tides… action is inevitable. Other baits you might want to have for this scenario are the Zman Jerk Shadz or Deizel Minnowz both work great on a keel weighted rigging hook. Best colors are those with a darker back and lighter belly color for contrast…

Redfish- Sight fishing these copper bruisers is on fire during the negative tides! I prefer throwing Zman Crabz and Shrimpz to these redfish who wave their tails in the shallows. Look for productive flats with lots of wading bird activity and you’ll be on the right path. If you can locate some mudding mullet, it’s almost a guarantee that the redfish will be more receptive to your presentations because they’re pretty spooky in the clear water! Colors that work best are earthy Browns and greens this time of year…

Sheepshead- On the coldest days when the shallow flats are a desert, these fish are a great play in the residential canal systems throughout the Bay. And yes, this will require live shrimp and a small #1 hook with a split shot for weight. Sheepshead get very frisky in February and provide fantastic action on cold windy days when nothing else is going on with the flats game.

Snook- You definitely have to get into the backcountry that has some deeper creeks to catch some snook now. They do come out and sit on some shallow mud flats later in the day and can be caught on the warming trends on dark colored jigs or plugs like the Zman Minnows or Catch Jr. but gotta move’m slow. Keep an eye on your water temps and look for the snook to fire up when you get water temps closer to 70 degrees in the backcountry. On those warm-ups try working a Z-Man Swimmerz high on the surface for some explosive strikes!

Here’s a quick reminder, I’ll be doing a special edition of Flats Class on March 7th at Tampa Fishing Outfitters with Mirrolure’s Eric Bachnik… there’s no charge for this event!

But you will need to register by phone with Tampa Fishing Outfitters to reserve your seat because it’s going to be limited to about 75 students. Call 813.870.1234 to reserve.

Until next time, keep them rods bent!

Tampa Bay Fishing report – December 2014

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December is here and it’s all about the water temperature! No need to be up at the crack of dawn either, the warmer water temps that trigger the bite happen later in the day. I’m starting many of my trips now at 9 o’clock in the morning so we can sight fish during prime time when the fish move up the flats to sun & feed.

This is also the time of year our larger trout move shallow and we see lots of tailing action by redfish rooting around for crunchy crustaceans. With not as many baitfish around the flats, the crustacean pattern is definitely what anglers should focus on in regards to lure profiles.

Here’s some of the action you can expect in the shallows:

Trout- The big trout (22″ to 28″) are moving up into shallow pot holes soaking up the sun and blasting the occasional finger mullet that happens by now and then. This is the time to utilize those Paul Brown Lures… the Lil’ Devil and Original Floater will impress you with their effectiveness on the trophy specks. Other lures that work well are the Zman Fattyz, Jerkshadz and Deizel Minnowz all rigged with a keel weighted rigging hook. Glide these baits over the shallow grass very slowly and you should get the attention of some “Gator Trout” this month.

Redfish- Sight fishing these copper bruisers is on fire during the negative tides! I prefer throwing Zman Crabz and Shrimpz to these redfish who wave their tails in the shallows. Look for productive flats with lots of wading bird activity and you’ll be on the right path. If you can locate some mudding mullet, it’s almost a guarantee that the redfish will be more receptive to your presentations because they’re pretty spooky in the clear water! Colors that work best are earthy Browns and greens this time of year…

Flounder- One of the nice by-products of combing through sandy pot holes on the flats for redfish and trout, is it often produces lots of Flounder in December and January. Lures that are effective on the Flounder vary but the new BTB Jig (looks like a bucktail) from Z-Man and the Z-Man Shrimpz (Pearl White) on a 1/4 oz. jig head… work well. Drag or slow hop these jigs and you’ll catch plenty! A dab of Pro-Cure Shrimp scent does wonders too.

Snook- You definitely have to get into the backcountry that has some deeper creeks to catch some snook now. They do come out and sit on some shallow mud flats later in the day and can be caught on the warming trends on dark colored jigs like the Zman Minnows or BTB Jig… gotta move’m slow though. Keep an eye on your water temps and look for the snook to fire up when you get water temps closer to 70 degrees in the backcountry!

Here’s a quick reminder, I offer gift certificates for my charters over the holidays and it’s the perfect Christmas gift for that avid angler in your family! Just email me at flatsclasscharters@gmail.com, I can accept credit cards or checks!

Until next time, keep them rods bent!

November Fishing Report

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Now that water temps are consistently in the 60’s, anglers will see good action in the shallows from “Gator” sized trout and upper slot redfish in and around pot holes on most shallow flats. And the shorter days and frequent cold fronts will begin to stack numbers of snook up in the backcountry & residential canal systems.

These lower tide phases are perfect for tossing Z-Man Scented Jerk Shadz and Paddlerz, Texas rigged on our shallow flats. Gliding these profiles in sandy holes will produce “big time” as fish fatten up before winter sets in for good. I recommend utilizing at least a 4/0 rigging hook and possibly consider a 5/0 to guarantee solid hook sets!

Here’s some of the action you can expect in the shallows:

Trout- The larger trout are still responding to lazy walked top water plugs like the Mirrolure She Dog. But, definitely give the Z-Man Jerk Shadz ample opportunity in shallow pot holes this month… colors like Red Bone, Houdini and Gold Rush will be the call. In the evening, look around dock lights in canals near productive trout flats for solid action on trout in the 17″ to 23″range. The dock light trout gobble up Mini-dines and Z-Man Curly Tails when worked through the shadow lines…

Redfish- Most flats in our region will have scattered redfish in 1′ to 2′ of water feeding on incoming tides. On cloudy days definitely use the Aqua Dream “Crab” Spoon or Green version but on the bright days it’s hard to beat a Z-Man Minnowz in Red Bone or Houdini on an 1/8 oz. jig head. I’m seeing good numbers of redfish staged up & feeding in areas where you notice wading herons and ibis in bunches. Plus, also look for flats that are holding an abundance of sheepshead and big mullet and your opportunities will go way up!

Flounder- One of the nice by-products of combing through sandy pot holes on the flats for redfish and trout, is it often produces lots of Flounder in November & December. Lures that are effective on the Flounder vary but the new BTB Jig from Z-Man and the Z-Man Shrimpz (Pearl White) on a 1/4 oz. jig head… work well. Last week we caught several flounder on every charter and that should improve going into December.

Snook- Much to my surprise snook fishing has been pretty good. I’m focusing on high outgoing water in back bays with Mirrolure hard baits and Z-Man Jerk Shadz on 1/4 oz. jig heads. Colors like Pearl White & Nite Glow have had solid results for snook anglers as of late. On a good tide you’ll have some fantastic action probably through the end of this month barring any arctic air moving into the region. I’m promoting to all my clients and students that we continue to treat snook as a “catch & release” gamefish target only. The snook are too valuable to our fishery and local economy to be taken to the filet table… please use common sense!

Here’s a quick reminder, don’t forget about school that I’ll be doing on December 13th at the IGFA Hall of Fame in Dania Beach, FL. These classes fill up fast so please register on my “School Page” here on my website or email me at FlatsClasswithCA@gmail.com to secure a seat soon.

Until next time, keep them rods bent!

A Snook Recovery?

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Over the past couple over years, catching a snook has been a real challenge for many recreational anglers. After all there were nearly one million snook that perished from that brutal winter in 2010 and it likely diminished the entire snook population of Florida by an estimated 40% or more!  But now nearly four years later, I’ve begun to notice some improvement in the snook stocks along Florida’s west coast.

Since the spring, in my travels up and down the state both fishing and filming, I have witnessed good numbers of snook in many areas. But I’d be remiss if I told you every region had improved significantly. In some areas the recovery is still lagging behind a little bit… some of that is due to a diminished habitat (especially in metro areas). And, I’ve conversed with a number of other professional guides that are noticing the same progress with the snook in other popular fishing locales within the state. The snook now seems poised to make a comeback but only with a little more help from those of us who revere them the most!

With the snook getting some relief from season closures imposed by the FWC for three consecutive years between 2010 & 2013. And “Mother Nature” taking care of it’s own, banking on the snook’s unusual hermaphrodite qualities, the snook are starting to rebound and maintain breeding populations. But caution should still be the rule with these sub-tropical brutes of the shallows, we can’t take it for granted that the snook are all the way back… far from it.

photo 1 (3)There will always be the threat of another unseasonably cold winter freeze and the “red tides” that plague our state in the summer months; both scenarios take their toll on most snook populations. But with a little self-restraint by anglers on harvest numbers and the continued stock management that is currently in place, the snook should recover to pre-2009 numbers in just a few more seasons barring a catastrophic natural event. Again, the one factor we can control as anglers when it comes to the snook’s overall comeback, is to practice responsible catch & release of all snook!

Even though snook are fair game within the slot 28″to 33″ during the Fall (September through November) and then again in the Spring (March through April); I would encourage prudence to all anglers and simply treat snook as if the seasons are still closed. It’s the only way we can guarantee the fastest recovery and future of Florida’s most prized gamefish. I believe that the old days of catching snook so that they can be brought to a filet table is in the past… snook are way too valuable to Florida’s fishing economy! Anglers from all over the country & across the globe travel here to south Florida, to chase these unique and powerful gamefish because their numbers are relatively sustained here. Other than the very southern tip of the Texas coast, Florida’s is the recognized snook capital of the country and a highly valued commodity we have to protect!

My clients in particular have been catching snook with more regularity on charters in areas where just last year we caught none. These prominent predators add something to every fishing outing, often the highlight of the day. The snook’s aggressive ambush behavior and unpredictable runs once hooked is what draws anglers to the challenge of battling these “lions of the flats”. It’s exactly for that reason we need to put a higher value on the snook, there are plenty of other “fish of opportunity” that anglers can bring to the grill!  My charters are catch & release only… hopefully others will feel this way to ensure more snook for our future. Remember, a snook’s  lifespan is nearly 20 years… that’s a pretty damn big snook!  And with a little help from all of us it’s going to be possible to catch more of these big linesider’s moving forward. In closing, the lesson we should have learned from the devastating snook kill of 2010 runs parallel to a lesson learned from this last serious economic recession which hurt so many of us financially. We need to employ some “good old” common sense to re-build a healthy sustained snook fishery and protect the estuaries where these fish thrive.

If you want to learn more about snook, or how you can get involved in securing the snook’s future; visit www.ccaflorida.org, www.mote.org and www.snookfoundation.org or better yet become a member of these organizations that respect our gamefish.

From Capt. C.A.Richardson’s poling platform…