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Action Improving on Tampa Bay & Charlotte Harbor Flats

Capt. Rick Grassett
March 23, 2019
Sarasota - Saltwater Fishing Report

Anglers fishing with me, out of CB's Saltwater Outfitters on Siesta Key, had some action catching and releasing snook and trout on CAL jigs with shad tails and trout on Clouser flies in the Terra Ceia area, reds in Gasparilla Sound and snook at night on flies in the ICW recently.

Keith McClintock, from Lake Forest, IL, fished the Terra Ceia area with me and had good action catching and releasing snook, several trout and a red on CAL jigs with shad tails and jerk worms. A couple of other trips had some action catching and releasing trout on Clouser flies fished on sink tip fly lines and CAL jigs with shad tails over deep grass in the same area.

Click to Enlarge Photo

Click to Enlarge Photo

Click to Enlarge Photo

Click to Enlarge Photo

Martin Marlowe, from NY, and Bruce Marlowe, from SC, fished the ICW at night for snook with me and had some action catching and releasing snook to 26" on my Grassett Snook Minnow fly. The action wasn't fast but the quality was good!

Click to Enlarge Photo

Dave Reinhart, from MA, fished the backcountry of Gasparilla Sound near Baca Grande and caught and released several reds on CAL jigs with shad tails. Following a full moon and a front, the better action was in the afternoon when water was warmer and tide higher.

Fishing shallow flats usually requires fishing hard to find and catch fish but it is worth the effort. You may not catch big numbers of fish but you may catch some good ones. Look for migratory species, such as Spanish mackerel, in bays, passes and the coastal gulf as we head into spring. Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by agricultural and residential runoff, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don't kill your limit!

Tight Lines,
Capt. Rick Grassett
FFI Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Orvis-Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide at CB's Saltwater Outfitters
Orvis Outfitter of the Year-2011

Sarasota Fishing Forecast:

Capt. Rick Grassett's Sarasota, FL Fishing Forecast for April 2019

This is a great month for snook on shallow flats. Reds and trout will also be more active as the water warms and baitfish become more plentiful. You might find Spanish mackerel, blues and pompano in passes or on deep grass flats. Look for Spanish mackerel, false albacore (little tunny), cobia and tripletail in the coastal gulf this month. Tarpon should also make an appearance in back country areas and in the coastal gulf later in the month.

Tarpon will become more plentiful this month as resident fish make their way out of rivers and creeks and early arriving migratory fish begin to show along beaches, particularly by the end of the month. Water temperature in the gulf is a key factor with 80 degrees being an optimum temperature. As the water warms towards that, fish will become more plentiful. Resident fish may be rolling on deep grass flats in some of the same places that you find trout, laid up on edges of shallow grass flats or along sand bars. Spin anglers might score with a DOA Shrimp, Baitbuster or 4" CAL Shad Tail while fly anglers might connect with a black Deceiver or Tarpon Bunny fly. Keep your tarpon tackle, rigged and ready, this time of year so you're able to take advantage of any opportunity that arises.

Snook and reds remain closed on the west coast of Florida. The Florida FWC has enacted a temporary modification of regulations for reds and snook, in the areas affected by the recent red tide. The area extends from Pasco County, south to the south bank of Gordon Pass in Collier County. Reds and snook are catch and release only in that zone until May 10, 2019. Full details including exact boundaries can be found at http://myfwc.com/news/news-releases/2018/september/26/comm-red-tide/ . In addition, FWC has also added trout over 20" to the closure in the same area.

Snook should be staging on flats, around sand and oyster bars, on points of islands and around docks and bridges close to passes in the ICW. Spin anglers should score with CAL jigs and a variety of plastic tails including the new 4" CAL Shad, DOA Baitbusters and Airheads or surface walking top water plugs. Fish the edges of bars and potholes when the tide is low and mangrove shorelines or points of islands when the tide is high. You'll also find snook around docks and bridges in the ICW. Night snook fishing should be productive with small white flies, like my Grassett Snook Minnow fly, CAL jigs with shad tails and jerk worms, DOA Shrimp and Tiny TerrorEyz. Fish peak tidal flows for the best action.

Reds will spend more time feeding on shallow flats due to more plentiful bait. I am seeing a decline in reds and big trout in shallow water in many of the areas that I fish, which makes them even harder to catch with lures and flies. Look for them in potholes, the edges of bars and around docks when the tide is low. You should find them higher on flats over shallow grass or around mangrove shorelines when the tide is high. I like a 1/16-oz CAL jig with a shad tail or jerk worm for reds in shallow water. They are easy to fish in shallow water, come in multiple colors and are a good way to find reds. My Grassett Flats Minnow is my "go to" fly for reds. It fishes well in shallow water and its bend back design makes it very weedless. You may also find big trout in skinny water in many of the same places that you find reds. The same lures, flies and techniques used to find and catch reds will also work for big trout. I like the flats of Tampa Bay and Gasparilla Sound for reds and big trout in April. FWC has also added trout over 20" to the emergency closure on the west coast of Florida through May 10, 2019.

Trout should be plentiful on deep grass flats. I like to drift and cast ahead of my drift with CAL jigs and a variety of plastic tails or DOA Deadly Combos. Fly anglers should score with weighted flies on sink tip fly lines. I tie Clousers with Ultra Hair on long shank hooks so that they are durable and will hold up to toothy and rough mouth fish. Deep grass flats with a close proximity to passes and usually good due to strong tidal flow.

You might also find blues, Spanish mackerel, pompano or flounder mixed with trout on deep grass flats. The same lures, flies and techniques that you use to find trout on deep grass will work for these species, too. You'll need to tip your leader with wire or heavy fluorocarbon when blues and mackerel are around. I prefer heavy fluorocarbon and long shank hooks whenever possible, since that usually won't affect the trout bite. Blues and mackerel usually don't feed on the surface in the bay like they do in the open gulf, but you may see bait showering or boils indicating fast moving fish, feeding just below the surface. Pompano may "skip" when you run or drift past them giving their location away. When that happens, circle back upwind and drift the area. Flounder are often found in potholes, on the edges of bars or on mud bottom.

There should be good action in the coastal gulf this month with Spanish and king mackerel, false albacore (little tunny), cobia and tripletail. Look for Spanish mackerel or albies feeding on the surface. You might find tripletail or cobia around crab trap floats. Your tarpon spin or fly tackle can do double duty for cobia and medium spinning tackle or an 8 or 9-weight fly rod will cover everything else. Artificial reefs or natural areas of hard bottom may hold any of these species. When fishing these areas you will need to get your lure, fly or bait down in the water column to the level where fish are located.

April is one of my favorite months. There should be good action in Sarasota Bay on both shallow and deep grass flats, in the coastal gulf for mackerel, albies, cobia and tripletail and with tarpon by the end of the month. I like early season tarpon, since they are usually aggressive, but there should be lots of other options, too. Our natural resources are under constant pressure from red tides fueled by agricultural and residential runoff, freezes, increasing fishing pressure and habitat loss and degradation, please limit your kill, don't kill your limit!

Tight Lines,
Capt. Rick Grassett
FFI Certified Fly Casting Instructor
Orvis-Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide at CB's Saltwater Outfitters
Orvis Outfitter of the Year-2011

Target Species:

snook, reds, trout, tarpon, bluefish, false albacore, tripletail, Spanish mackerel

More Fishing Reports:

 

Capt. Rick Grassett, owner of Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc., is a full time fishing guide and outdoor writer based in Sarasota, FL. He has been guiding since 1990 and is an Orvis Endorsed Outfitter fly fishing guide at CBs Saltwater Outfitters in Sarasota. Specializing in fishing with flies and lures on light spinning tackle, Capt. Rick fishes the bays, back country and coastal gulf waters from Tampa Bay to Charlotte Harbor in his 18 Action Craft flats boat.

Contact Info:

Snook Fin-Addict Guide Service, Inc.
2447 Waneta Drive
Sarasota, FL 34231
Phone: 941-923-7799
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