Not long ago, I was visiting with an old friend, fittingly catching up. We both fish often and compare notes on what we see on the water. In the last 35-years our ideas and experiences have been shared many hundreds of times.
Many of our discussions turn to comparing the good old days we have heard about. The great fishing fortunes or tales passed on from other generations. Fishing accounts from our fathers, uncles and their friends of all the fish they caught. Back in the day when the sheer quantities of fish were staggering, and bountiful catches were the norm.
Eric brought up a good point that we possibly experienced some of our own best days on the water twenty-plus years ago. That is when I realized we have lived our own series of the good old days. Not just from the days of yore, but since we have begun our own fishing memories. Sharing these memories from on the water is good testament that there is more to fishing than just catching. I hope to continue adding to our tales until our time is up.
Fishing the Bays
With the warmer bay water temperatures this month we will have a surge of bait showing up. As usual, the seasonal change is quickly approaching, and variety is once again upon us. The flooding tides will bring abundant glass minnows, finger mullet and menhaden schools as the month matures.
I’ll be taking advantage of the higher water level and fishing shallower points at the ends of coves. When selecting a point, I look for bait of course. Either finger mullet or glass minnows will concentrate reds and trout. On incoming tides slot reds will be more available on the shallow shorelines. They will tend to fall back toward the drop-offs around sand pockets on outgoing tides.
We should have some stout springtime winds this month. I use them to my advantage every time when fishing on a flat or nearby primary drop-off. A stiff wind will build a stronger current across some areas of a flat, I look for the wind-slicks and follow them until they all have curvature in them. This is where the bait will be and hopefully a mud streak telling where to concentrate efforts. When fishing the primary drop-off from the flat I position the wind behind us, an east wind carries current very good down our mid-coast shorelines.
Redfish will be my main target, but trout and slot drum swim the same areas. Live pinfish baits get the bigger fish, but frozen sardines, fresh cut mullet and shrimp get the most bites.
Fresh cracked blue crab works great, but pinfish and other pesky thieves make short work of the exposed sweet meat. A great way to increase staying power with these baits is by making a “redfish sandwich” out of them. Scale and fillet a large mullet and wrap the fillet around a crab chunk. Hook the fillet skin side down once, then attach the crab body through a leg hole and wrap the remainder of the fillet. Use a hook with a larger gap, like a Mustad 39941 6/O circle or a similar sized 9174 O’Shaughnessy to pin the bait down.
These big birds of the bay show us where the action is this month. When diving in open water they are most likely over schools of menhaden or mullet, both very sought after by me for bait. It’s a different game when pelicans are found bombing the spoil island drops, deep bay shorelines and bay passes. These areas hold an abundance of glass minnows on strong tidal flows. Trout and redfish will be right in there with them, as well as a few slimers (gafftop catfish) to trick you into thinking you’ve hooked a big one.
If conditions allow, the nearshore action should include red snapper, sand trout, black drum, redfish and large sheepshead at the short rigs. Fishing on the bottom near the platform legs is very good for a mixed bag catch. I use a single drop rig with 2- to 4-ounces of lead on the lower section and the same hooks used with the redfish sandwiches. The sheepshead will linger near the surface, most often nipping at floating sargassum weed or barnacle growth on the structure. Free-lining a weightless live shrimp rig nearby gets their attention.
Live shrimp are good for all, as well as cut mullet, sardines or live pinfish. It is a great idea to have a heavier live bait pitch rig at the ready in case of a cobia encounter. Last year we caught some nice ones in April that appeared completely unannounced. Ditto on the tripletail, they will surprise and delight you as well. We duped several on the same free-lined live shrimp rigs used while targeting the sheepshead. The bigger cobia rigs may be needed to keep 10-plus pound fish out of the rig.
While traveling around the structure it is a good opportunity to try for some kingfish. Trolling deep diving lures like a Rapala CD7 or a #17 Pet Spoon may get attention early in the season. The earliest I have caught kings was on April 1 – No Fooling!April is a great time to get out on the water while it is less crowded. Run around the bay fishing for a variety of species and even nearshore if the weather conditions are favorable. For sure, there is no time better than the present to begin or add to your personal volume of the “Good Old Days.”