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Details vital to landing cobia, redfish

For this range of different gamefish, assorted tackle must be used to fight these fish on their turf.

By JIM HUDDLESTON
Published May 18, 2007


Spring can offer inshore anglers a variety of species to chose from while fishing the flats and bays of west-central Florida. Attention to details can pay dividends to landing more fish.

Cobia will be running the beaches, redfish will school up in the shallows, tarpon are migrating north and snook will come out of river systems and canals and begin to stage up for the summer spawn. For this range of different gamefish, assorted tackle must be used to fight these fish on their turf. All three will be full of energy and willing to battle till the end, as the water is still cool - unlike midsummer temperatures.

The most important tool for inshore fishers in the spring is a good trolling motor or push pole. The reason for this is the clarity of the water and pressure from an overdose of boats on the water. By moving in on the desired species quietly, it will increase the chances of hooking them before scaring them off.

When approaching a particular spot, shut the outboard down early enough so wakes won't push into the area and hinder your chances. Using an electric trolling motor, slowly move in, taking note of wind direction and tidal movement. This will help to set up and make long casts to the hot zone.

If a cast is not reaching the spot, opening the bail will allow the bait to swim into the unsuspecting fish. These small steps prove crucial when gamefish are getting extra pressure from spring fishing.

The run of cobia along the outside beaches makes for great sightfishing as they cruise the edges of sandbars. The appearance of these brown bombers is easily detected on the white sand with the sun high. The many leopard rays found here this time of year are often trailed by a few cobia seeking an easy meal. A dark-colored plastic eel or a quarter-ounce pumpkin jig bucktail will sink quickly into the strike zone.

A large pinfish freelined will not go unnoticed when placed ahead of these predators. Thirty-pound leader is needed as the barbs across the back will try to cut the line, since these fish like to roll over the line once hooked.

The redfish pushing up onto the flats on high water are feeding heavily among the mangrove roots. These fish are foraging on the small crustaceans that are getting flushed out by large mullet schools working in and out of the cover. This feeding highway also is shaded by mangroves and at midday will be considerably cooler.

The overhanging branches are the main obstacle when trying to catch fish out of the bushes. Openings with a canopy of limbs can make placement of baits easier. Thirty- to 40-pound fluorocarbon leader is needed when the line comes in contact with the tiny barnacles that grow on the roots. Keeping the rod low or even placing the tip down in the water will help gain the needed angle to pull reds out of trouble.

A stiffer rod and tightening the reel's drag can help anglers when a bruiser eats way back up in the trees. Smaller pinfish tail-hooked will swim back into the shade.

Snook have moved into transition areas and should really start to chew on the strong tides. The outgoing tide has still been the best bite with so much bait flushing out with the current.

Smaller baits have worked better than large baits. Freelining the greenbacks with the moving water will have a natural appearance. If the current is moving too swiftly, a No. 4 split shot about a foot from the hook will keep the bait lower in the water column. A belly hooked sardine will flash and catch the attention of any predators nearby.