Strong winds have forced the offshore fleet to stay at the docks this week, but the previous week the weather cooperated and gave us a taste of spring inshore and offshore.
Before this week's blow, bait had started to appear in the waters off southern Pinellas County. Large whitebait has been cast-netted around the Sunshine Skyway, Pinellas Point and Pass-a-Grille buoys. The shipping channel is holding large pinfish, cigar minnows and a few Spanish sardines. Blue runners have not made an appearance but soon should.
Spanish mackerel are starting to appear around the shipping channel, and they will destroy Sabiki rigs deployed by anglers trying for bait. The grouper fishing last week was phenomenal. Chris Clark on the Mega-Bite limited out a party of six people fishing 50 miles northwest of Pass-a-Grille in 95 feet on Sunday. Their catch included 15 mangrove snapper.
Amberjack fishing is red hot on the springs southwest of Pass-a-Grille. The bait of choice seems to be spadefish, but the amberjack have eaten everything from pinfish to jigs.
Nearshore snapper can be found on ledges within 10 miles, in about 40 feet. The snapper have been most cooperative on live shrimp fished on light hooks with fluorocarbon leaders.
Large sheepshead can also be found on the nearshore reefs dotting Pinellas County beaches. They have been biting on live shrimp and Asian green muscles.
As for inshore fishing, Brent Gaskill of Summer Vacation Charters reports the trout have been hitting topwater plugs the past few days. The redfish also have been active and have started to school around mangrove islands. With water temperatures climbing slightly, the first signs of bait and the appearance of Spanish mackerel, the run of larger pelagics is set to begin. The shrimp boat fleet is working between Naples and Boca Grande, with the boats appearing to be working to the north nightly, so blackfin tuna should make an appearance soon.
Kayak enthusiasts will convene at Fort DeSoto Park starting today for the eighth annual Florida Gulf Coast International Sea Kayak Symposium. The symposium, which teaches basic to advanced techniques, runs through Sunday. Kayaks will be available to rent. For more information call Sweetwater Kayaks at 570-4844.