Florida Fishing Report - March 26

FreshwaterCentral Florida-Despite the warm winter and early spawn there arestill fish on the beds in Lake Toho, Kissimmee and the Harris Chain of Lakes.The key is to find clean water with hard bottom or lily pads, as many fish willmake their beds on the base of a lily pad root, and then get a good pair ofpolaroid glasses and start looking for fish. When you find the bedding fish,back off a long cast away and then work the bed with a tube jig or springlizard. Live shiners are the most consistent producers of bass right now, withlots of fish in the 6-9 pound range being caught on a daily basis. Find deepwater next to vegetation and put out your shiners. Be sure to give the fish anhour or more to turn on before moving. Many inexperienced shiner fishermenthink the bite should be immediate and leave after 20-30 minutes when the biteis just beginning to turn on.Speck fishing hasbeen good in Lake Kissimmee around the grass using jig and minnow combinationor at night in the deeper holes using live Missouri Minnows. Shellcracker cameonto the beds with the March full moon, so expect to see those bomb crater-sizedbeds with the next new moon and the April full moon. Live red wigglers willcatch the shellcracker.Lake Okeechobee?Thisis the year of the big bass on Lake Okeechobee, where big bass are being caughton a daily basis. There aren?t a lot of 10-12 pounders, but 4-8 pound fish areall over the place as was evident in the Bassmaster Elite Series event held onthe big lake this past weekend. Ish Monroe of Hughson, California won the eventby bringing in a five fish limit each of the four days weighing a total104-pounds, 8-ounces. Monroe caught all his fish flipping bulrushes and otherheavy cover near Pelican Bay on the east side of the lake. That?s the thirdevent on Lake Okeechobee this year that it took over 100 pounds to win. Bassfishermen using live shiners are also doing well with the big fish in areaslike the Clewiston Channel, King?s Bar and Tin House Cove.SaltwaterFlorida PanhandleInshore?Chockohatchee Bay isproducing redfish around the bridges right now for anglers using Trigger Xshrimp on a ΒΌ-ounce jighead. There?s been good numbers of Spanish mackerel from1-4 pounds being caught in the passes, along with some oversized redfish. Trollspoons or small minnow-type lures for the Spanish mackerel, and use cut mulleton the bottom for the redfish. Trout anglers will find plenty of fish in WestBay in Panama City fishing the deeper potholes around the grass flats in 3-5feet of water. Soft plastics like the Bass Assassin 4-inch Sea Shad in ChickenOn A Chain color or live shrimp are the way to go here.Offshore? The cobia run has kickedinto gear in the Florida Panahandle, with fish moving west along the beaches inanywhere from 12- to 35-feet of water. You can target these fish with liveeels, shrimp, pinfish and crabs or just about any other bait you might want toget in front of them. The key here is variety. Keep changing baits until youfind what that individual fish wants. Chartreuse or bright orange 1-2 ouncejigs will also work.West Central FloridaInshore?Trout action has beensteady near the mouth of the Manatee River for anglers using SaltwaterAssassins in Drunk Monkey or Space Guppy colors worked along the sandy potholesin the grass will get you trout and even a few redfish. Snook are starting topush outside of the rivers around New Port Ritchie and moving to the mangrove shorelines.Live pilchards or shrimp have been the most consistent baits for snook withfish up to 14-pounds caught this week. For anglers fishing the inlets or piersthe sheepshead and pompano bite has been steady using sandfleas or small piecesof shrimp for bait. Pompano can also be caught on the HookUp Lures pompano jigin yellow with a chrome head or pink and white. Most of the pompano have beenunder two pounds.Offshore?Kingfish are three tofive miles off Sarasota over hard bottom. Live blue runners, pilchards orthreadfins slow-trolled around the bait schools and hard bottom areas arecatching plenty of fish in the 8-15 pound class. Spanish mackerel are also inthe mix right now, with fish to five pounds being caught on pilchards, Yo-ZuriCrystal Minnows and spoons. There?s also been a few cobia in the mix, so keepyour eyes open around any markers and have a chartreuse colored Assassin swimbait ready to throw to any cruising fish.Southwest FloridaInshore?Tarpon are starting topush north with the main concentration of fish around Lostman?s River and CapeRomano. The fish are in anywhere from 12-20 feet of water and moving north.Live pinfish, threadfins, pilchards or ladyfish chunks will all entice astrike. Olive colored Rapala SubWalks and XRAPS will also get bites, as willshrimp fly patterns and the Puglisi Peanut Butter and Jelly Fly. The tarpon areranging anywhere from 50 to 150 pounds right now, so 20-30 pound gear and 12weight fly rods are the way to go.Offshore?Bottom fishermen in Southwest Florida are pickingaway at mangrove snapper on the reefs, and some of the first permit of the yearare starting to show. The mangroves have been anywhere from 1-5 pounds andeating live shrimp, pilchards or pinfish. There?s been a lot of Goliath grouperon the same structures holding the snapper, so use at least 20-pound tackle orexpect to lose some fish to the massive grouper, some of which are topping 400pounds. After a two month closure in the Gulf of Mexico, red grouper seasonopens April 1, and the reefs and wrecks anywhere from 20 to 50 miles out areholding some nice fish. Live pinfish are hard to beat, but everything fromchunks of squid to cigar minnows will catch these fish which must be 20 inchesor more to keepFloridaKeysInshore?Redfish action has been pretty decent on the flatsand Upper Keys guides are reporting seeing some juvenile snook, which is a goodsign and first good report of snook since the January 2010 freeze that killedthousands of snook in Florida Bay. The deeper flats are holding tons of trout,ladyfish and Spanish mackerel right now for anglers throwing live shrimp or ashrimp and jig combination. There?s been a mixture of bull and blacktip sharksand even a few sawfish around those deeper cuts holding the Spanish mackereland jack crevalle. Anchor up and butterfly a mackerel or barracuda or tie off ajack by the tail and pop some holes in him and you?ll have the sharks behindthe boat in no time. Then bait up with a chunk of ladyfish, jack or mackereland #8 wire and be prepared to fight sharks and sawfish up to 400 pounds.Offshore?Yellowtail and muttonsnapper have been providing good action on the reefs for Keys fishermen fromIslamorada down to Key West. Dolphin action is starting to kick into gear withfish being caught from Marathon south to Key West. Look for the weeds andfloating debris. Most of the dolphin have been small so far, but April bringsthe largest dolphin of the year, so the best fishing is just a week or so away.Troll ballyhoo with a pink or green skirt, or Dolphin Jr. Lures with a bonitostrip to cover a lot of ground. The Sub wreck southwest of Key West is seeingsome good wahoo action on mainly small fish (under 25 pounds) for those usinglive threadfins or blue runners for bait.Southeast FloridaInshore?The spring snook seasonhas kicked off with a bang from Lake Worth to Fort Pierce, with fish to 25pounds being caught along the seawalls of the St. Lucie, Loxahatchee and Indianrivers. Try using a gold and black Rapala Skitterwalk along the seawalls atfirst light, then switch over to 8-10 inch live mullet. Put your bait againsthe walls?the closer the better?as the fish are using the walls to pin thebait. Spotted seatrout have moved into spawning mode and fish to 10-pounds ormore are being caught in the Indian and St. Lucie Rivers right now by anglersthrowing Bass Assassin Drunk Monkey or Copper Juice colored Shad with a 1/8ounce jighead. Concentrate on the shorelines and docks, and expect to encountersnook and redfish as well. Pompano action has been hit-or-miss, but there was anice school off Peck?s Lake earlier in the week, with sandfleas the baits ofchoice.Offshore?Cobia action is startingto taper off as the fish move north, but there are still some fish around thewrecks and reefs in St. Lucie County, as well as on the backs of sharks fromJupiter north. Chartreuse HookUp jigs and live sardines or blue runners areworking right now. Bottom fishing for mangrove, mutton and yellowtail snapperhas been steady in anywhere from 60-110 feet of water, with the yellowtail moreprevalent the further south you go and the mangrove action better to the north.Pilchards, live shrimp and small Spanish sardines are all deadly snapper bait,and don?t overlook the effectiveness of a Williamson Speed Jig or ShimanoButterfly Jig. The largest amberkjacks of the year are being caught on the deepwater wrecks, with fish to 80-pounds common right now. Live blue runners ormullet have been the preferred baits.East Central FloridaInshore?Right nowthe spoil islands of the Indian and Banana rivers are holding a good mixed bagof fish, with ladyfish and trout the mainstays, but also some nice springschools of redfish up to 30 pounds in the mix. Topwater plugs, soft plastics ingreen with red glitter and live shrimp or ladyfish or mullet chunks have beenworking on the reds, the majority of which are well over the 18-27 inch slotlimit. Shrimp are still running at night in Oak Hill and Melbourne,particularly on the new and full moon outgoing tides.Offshore?Cobia action remainssteady off Cape Canaveral with most anglers using live pogies or chartreusejigs. The cobia have been holding on rays and also free-swimming, with thegreatest concentration around Ponce Inlet. The most steady action has been onkingfish in the 12-20 pound range which have been holding in anywhere from50-90 feet of water, although there have been some nice smoker kings up to40-pounds being caught in 60 feet of water off the Cape on trolled ribbonfishor live bluefish on #4 wire with adouble hook stinger rig. The kings are moving south with the warmweather. The yellowfin tuna bite off the 110 mile weather buoy is going off,with fish in the 50-90 pound class eating ballyhoo and swimming plugs.Northeast FloridaInshore? Topwater action hasalready hit its spring peak in northeast Florida, particularly on the outgoingtide. Water temperatures are in the 68-70 degree range, which has the trout andreds pushing up into the shallows. This is the time of the year to put a half ablue crab or large live shrimp on the bottom at one of the inlets for trophyblack drum from 20-80 pounds. Those big drum will be around for about anothermonth or so.Offshore?Easterly winds have keptthe ocean rough, but wahoo, dolphin and blackfin tuna can be found in anywherefrom 110-240 feet of water throughout the region. Most anglers are trollingballyhoo with a red and black Ilander Lure and shotgunning small jet lures waybehind the boat for the tunas. The wahoo have been anywhere from 30-80 pounds.Beach anglers are finding bluefish and whiting, along with the occasionalpompano with the best action around Crescent Beach. Fish shrimp or sandfleasfor the whiting and pompano, and cut bait for the bluefish. You can also throwspoons for the blues which are in the 1-5 pound range.
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