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It’s time to enjoy Spring fishing at it’s best.

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On: Fri, Jul 18, 2008 at 2:40PM | By: Captain Van Hubbard

Winter stayed away mostly this year. Of course they had some really cold snow storms up north and I’m glad I live in Florida. Even North Florida had plenty of cold this year we have been lucky on our lower Gulf Coast. Snook season opens on the First of March, finally. Redfish and trout will help provide fresh fish dinners. Mackerel and pompano are already moving in and should be abundant now. The big mackerel migrations are due any time along the Southwest Coast and could make it into the Tampa Bay area before the end of March. Grouper are closed in Federal waters, till mid month, and for most charter boats in state waters. Closures are a challenge to keep up with check with local Fish & Wildlife offices. Concentrate on snapper and macks offshore.

If the weather continues to cooperate we will enjoy some gear fishing now. Winds are expected now so we must work around them. Use weather forecasting to help plan your fishing trips. If you have some flexibility with setting up trips, use it. I frequently get the call from visitors wanting to go fishing tomorrow. Some times it works out; but repeatedly they failed to plan ahead. Tomorrow’s weather forecast is not for the warm south breezes you enjoyed today, its northwest at 15 – 25 with rain. I explain this and ask if they will still be able to go in a few days when we warm up again; “gee I wish we could but we leave day after tomorrow”. If you plan to go at the beginning of your trip, odds are good that you can get out some time in good weather while you are here. Down here we joke about our weather, “if you don’t like today’s conditions don’t worry it’ll be different tomorrow”. The atmosphere varies dramatically and temperatures can drop or increase by 20 - 30 degrees or even more in a few hours. Winds can increase in minutes and seas grow into dangerous waves in little more than a blink of your eye. Look at the tornados we had last month because of these big temperature changes in the mid West. Understanding of wind direction can help you determine where to rescue a safe days fishing. We can almost depend upon a warm windy day ahead of strong cold fronts. Plan to work an area protected in these south winds, if you can. Look at options that allow you to safely get to and from such areas. North winds are cold but can be productive because the barometer is usually still dipping and water temps are just starting to fall. Northeast winds are cold and a high steady barometric pressure; slow fishing, cold, and uncomfortable. When heading out on cold days allow the sun to warm the waters before starting out and fish late. Pre dawn starts can help out once we get into the warm summer weather. Fish live under water, so take the time to observe the animals you can see. If the birds are active this is a good time to fish, if they are napping catch up on boat work or just relax. Do not over think fishing, keep things simple. Just use the tools available to make life easier and enhance your catching odds. Sometime soon we will enjoy some awesome fishing. The timing depends upon the water temps. When to Gulf temps in your area approach seventy degrees you need to be ready; and it will be soon. Migratory schools of mackerel, sharks, and all of their schooling buddies will pop up. Baitfish will lead the schools north as waters warm up. East winds will draw these minnows ashore into our range. Some of our best king fishing is near shore with fresh northeast winds and warmer water. Note there are exceptions to general patterns. We had kings and tarpon off shore of Boca Grande into December last year so schools could be closer than usual. Be prepared, make up rigs, and change your gear ready. Snook opens on the First of March this year. Fish will begin to turn on early as water temps are close to the mid seventies already. Minnows are the easy way to catch spring snook if you can catch them. White baits have remained here all winter so far; let’s se if they stay when we need em. Lures are productive, especially when minnows are tough to catch. Learn to fish one or two lures successfully then move on to others. The trick is to take small steps master the knowledge and then apply the experience to new areas/lures. Reds and trout are beginning to get more active also. With tight snook slots look at other species too if you’re planning a fish dinner.

Flats and back country catching is prime in spring. Sheepshead should still be strong early this month; especially in the Tampa Bay area. Do not ignore this tasty fish. They are abundant with liberal bag limits; that’s hard to duplicate these days. Sheepies can be taken from docks and bridges with out expensive boats or gear. They eat shrimp, crabs, and clams so you can even collect your own bait. The easiest way to learn how to catch these sneaky bait stealers is to observe experienced anglers catching fish. Go to popular spots and carry an extra soda or candy bar share something before you ask for help. The Skyway piers and any bridge you can fish from are great spots. Please remember that if you bite the hand that feeds you that help will dry up fast. Let the new knowledge help you learn. If you show your appreciation to your mentors they might just share a few more tips with you. Pompano and Spanish are around area passes now. They can be a great backup plan if slot snook are elusive. Again look to the bait shops available in your area to get the most current info on hot spots and lures. Guides are a great way to get a start on any style of fishing you need help learning. I like jigs tipped with fresh shrimp. Sand fleas are my favorite baits if available. Grouper are closed in federal waters until mid March. It’s challenging to stay on top of these rules so check before you go fishing. When grouper do open they will be hungry so plan to get out as soon as it’s safe for you to try. Trolling big plugs can help you learn about off shore fishing. Natural baits are fine if you are on the fish. Kings and grouper can be hunted effectively with lures. Add a short piece of wire if kings are home. If you do not have some hot numbers then troll hard bottom areas and discover some of your own. We are lucky to be here; it warms up much sooner than up north. Go fishing and spend time with family and friends. Take kids fishing whenever you can it is more fun also educate them about protecting our fishing not just catching em. Let’s Go Fishin’ soon. Captain Van Hubbard


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