Well, so far the snook bite continues to be pretty much insane. 4-6 hour trips have been putting from 12 to 50 fish in the boat. Some times they just don’t want to stop eating. Most of the fish are still concentrated within 3/4 of a mile of the deep water passes, and of course they are still all over beach structure. Weather permitting, there have been some very nice quality fish on some shallow near-shore structure that is well off the beach. some of these areas have had consistent fish over 35″ and some up to the low 40s. Reds are probably a lot more prevalent that you would think, because we have been getting so side tracked by the stellar snook fishing. There have also been schools of larger trout (up to 30″) and some smaller Spanish macks off the beach harassing the bait pods. Weather has kept anyone from braving a trip offshore to the wrecks and reefs this week, but I would suspect that the fishing is holding up there as well.
On two of my recent beach trips I have had a funny situation where my clients were Oooohing and Ahhhing over a catch as I landed and unhooked a Snook near at boatside when all of the sudden I hear “Holy $hi! is that a SHARK!” as a gray shape rises up under the boat, just inches from my hands. I always have to giggle a bit, and tell them that it is only the resident dolphin population who love fisherman. These dolphin, in my experience, wont bother hooked fish…but boy ohh boy if you release anything near them you will see that they are very efficient predators. I usually try not to let them get a hold of snook, reds, etc and only let them snag the occasional snapper, pinfish, or spare mullet I may have in the livewell. However, sometimes they show up and you don’t realize it, and this was one of those days. This dolphin (its the same one, he has 3 almost vertical scars on the left side of his dorsal right at the top…just in case anyone is in the stump pass region. I am thinking we need to name him/her) will hide just out of range, and then pounce on a snook or red as they swim off. This day he decided to them flip the snook (a small male) up in the air and play with it for about 10 minutes. Granted I dont like to see this happen too often, it sure did put on a show for my charter. I think they probably liked that better than the great fishing they enjoyed! One of these days I will have to try to get one of these little displays on video.
As far as snook fishing goes, stick to the beaches and deep water passes, or ledges near those passes. Reds are back up under the mangroves at high tide, and stalking the flats and edges at low tide. Trout have been scattered throughout the live grass beds and off the beach. You cant beat a 5.5″ D.O.A CAL jerk bait, or a CAL shad tail. I like the light colors like pearl for the clear water, and rootbeer, gold flake, and plum crazy for the stained water. The small size terror eyez have also been producing a good number of fish near the passes and bridges, and you might even hook into a tarpon with them. As always, whitebait and threadfins have been killer on all of the above. I never leave home without a few hundred livies in the well. Many times all it takes is those 3 live chummers to get slammed to turn on the fishing for a good 30-45 minutes. I have taken my largest snook, and a couple bull reds this week, while on the beach fishing near shallow structure and bait pods. I generally have 2 of my clients fish the structure, and the 3rd (they rotate through a lot) casting a 1/8 or 1/4 oz DOA jig head in natural, with a lip hooked pinfish, large whitebait or thready. I have them bounce, or drag this bait along the bottom very slowly, parallel to the beach, about in the trough where you see the big darks spots (bait). This finesse approach will often produce the larger 35″+ fish. They are not likely to get aggressive towards the typical whitebait next to structure, but if that large bait bumps the bottom in front of their nose they just cant help but suck it in.
Tarpon are definitely still around, though definitely not as thick. Sharks are pretty prevalent near the beaches, and near offshore structure. I would suspect that those 500-900lb tigers will be cruising back through given the number of kings that we have been sticking on offshore trips.
Just a note of good news: I am pretty crappy about making sure I get pictures on my camera, but I will soon be posting videos here, and on Youtube, of some of my trips. I think it will make for some great memories. I have also been toying with the idea of some short instructional pieces, let me know if you think that would be a good idea.
Take care, and be safe.