For the next two months, the combination of water temperature, bait migration, and tide schedules are promising. Now, we’re in full spring transition. First, as water temperatures climb into the 70’s and with negative tides diminishing prey species like the scaled sardine and threadfin herring will return from offshore and make they’re way into the harbor. Moreover, they’ll begin setting up on grass flats closest to the pass like those off Jug Creek and Devilfish Key. As the month progresses, they’ll make their way into the many bays and sounds surrounding the harbor triggering a feed as predator species look to fatten up on the oily meat after the slim pickings of winter.
In particular, snook that need to fatten up in preparation for the summer spawn will begin making their way out of canal, river, and backcountry creek systems. Early in the month, I like to look outside the Myakka River towards the west side of the cutoff and Hog Island. As the month progresses, I’ll make my way down the west wall paying close attention to shoreline areas adjacent to creek systems.
Furthermore, the entire bar system from Cape Haze Point at the lower end of the west wall to Cayo Pelau at the southern end of Gasparilla Sound can really fish well. Snook from creek systems throughout Turtle and Bull Bay will make their way onto this bar system as Devilfish Key lies at it’s western edge. Also for snook, the east side below Burnt Store to Matlacha is worth exploring. Shorelines towards the outside are the place to look.
In the upper harbor, it’s also the beginning of tarpon season. Resident fish will make their way out of the river systems and group up around the deeper holes off the west wall and Pirate Harbor. In particular, the 20-foot hole off the west wall is a good bet. At first light it’s not unusual to find them rolling.
Redfish will also key on the scaled sardine but will still be sticking close to the mullet. Because of the additional salinity from proximity to multiple passes, Pine Island Sound is one of my favorite places to look. As a rule of thumb, always fish under the mullet.
The spotted sea trout bite has been consistent the past couple months and should continue throughout the spring. Here too, Pine Island Sound should fish well. Throughout the upper sound, most flats with a mix of sand and turtle grass are worth working.