Bounty lies just beyond the bow
By ED WALKER
Published March 31, 2007
Right now is a great time to be a Nature Coast saltwater sportsman. The opportunity to catch a variety of fish seldom gets any better.
On the flats, redfish have been on a remarkable tear. Some of the schools are bigger than many guides have seen in the past several years. Different groups of reds have been found in spots from Holiday to Homosassa. The size of the fish in these schools has ranged from 12 inches to 12 pounds, which is somewhat unusual. Normally the larger reds prefer to swim with fish closer to their own size. The abundance of the little ones is a sign that there may be good fishing for the next few years.
Scaled sardines have been easy to catch, and the reds have gobbled them up. In some areas live chumming has worked the fish into a frenzy, but on others spots it can be counter-productive. The reason? Bird trouble.
Terns, many of which have become conditioned to looking for food where they see anglers, can be a problem. In some heavily fished places, the birds hover overhead before the baitwell is open. When this occurs, throwing handfuls of crippled minnows only makes it worse. Birds crashing into the water on top of the spot you are trying fish can spook the fish. We usually fish without chumming first and only toss out the freebies if necessary.
Big speckled trout have been mixed in with the reds in some spots. Over the past week, we have caught and released specks up to 5 pounds with regularity. Because these bigger fish are full of eggs during this time of year we usually release them.
Snook fishing has also been good as long as you continue look for "fresh" spots. The well-known snook hangouts have come under heavy pressure recently, and the fish in these places have stopped biting. It is not uncommon to set up on a spot with 40 snook sitting in a hole and drift prime live baits through it with zero response. By watching where the other boats are fishing regularly, you can maintain a mental list of where not to fish. Being the sixth boat on a snook hole will do you no good. If you can find the snook that have not been discovered yet, you can expect to get strikes right away.
In the gulf, there are lots of fun things happening. The big Spanish mackerel have moved in, kingfish are beginning to show up, gag grouper fishing has improved, sharks are following the bait pods, and divers are finding plenty of tasty hogfish.
The better kingfish catches occur when the main body of the school is found. This loose school of small kings is huge but can move several miles overnight. Recently the primary mass was found near the Tarpon Springs reef, but it has now shifted somewhere else. One of the best indicators of the presence of the kings is skyrocketing fish. Odds are, if you see a king launch out of the water, the big school is probably nearby. If you see more than one, you are definitely in the right place.
Because the school-sized kings run between 9 and 16 pounds, light spinning tackle can be used for maximum fun. A short section of wire and a live sardine is all you need once you find the fish.
Ed Walker charters out of Tarpon Springs. Call 727 944-3474 or e-mail info@lighttackle charters.com.