There’s never been a better time for spring fishing in Florida, so grab your favorite rod and reel and hit the water! Here are the places you won’t want to miss.
The Homosassa area has some of the best sea trout fishing in the state during the spring.
“What makes our area unique is that most of our trout fishing can be sight casting to large trout sunning on hard limestone bottom,” says Captain William Toney of Homosassa Inshore Fishing. The fourth generation fishing guide and Homosassa native says the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge is a great place to start when targeting large springtime trout.
One of the captain’s favorite lures is the D.O.A. 5 1/2-inch Glow Jerk Bait with a 3/0 hook placed through the nose of the bait. Cast towards the limestone rocks and retrieve it fast enough to keep it off the bottom, but slow enough to keep it from breaking the surface.
Alternatives: Peacock bass fishing for anglers who like to sight cast is at its best! The bass are in full spawning mode and this is the time for targeting the biggest peacock bass in Florida. Peacock bass guide Alan Zaremba recommends pitching 1/4-ounce jigs tight to the banks when using spin or baitcasting equipment and Clouser Minnows if using a fly rod. Polarized sunglasses are a must for spotting the fish.
Bedding largemouths on Lake George can be enticed with 1/4-ounce spinnerbaits in low light. Weedless swimming worms or Horny Toads worked through the grass can be effective as well.
April is the last month of the spring open season for snook and boasts the highest success rate for harvested fish. The Intracoastal Waterway docks hold pre-spawn snook that are staging prior to moving into nearby passes and inlets.
“Beef up the tackle to increase your chances of extracting fish from line-shredding pilings,” says Captain Ralph Allen, who guides anglers in the Charlotte Harbor area.
For increased success the captain suggests free lining large sardines, pinfish or small mullet under the docks from the up current side.
Alternatives: Off the beaches of Destin, cobia are cruising the sandbars. Look for them from the breakers out to depths of 20 feet and feed them live baitfish or large plastic-tailed jigs in chartreuse.
This is the time for “gator” trout in Jacksonville on the St. Johns River. The most effective lures are hard plastic jerkbaits and 5-inch curly-tail grubs on jig heads.
This is still the time for encountering large schools of redfish on the shallow flats throughout the lagoon.
“Sight fishing from poling skiffs allows anglers the chance to cast to fish they can see. Others fish from kayaks, canoes, wading, or in boats while at anchor,” says Captain Chris Myers.
Many of the fish are found on the grass flats, in water less than 2 feet deep, but they can also be caught on the deeper edges of sand bars and around islands and points.
The reds eat a wide range of live baits like shrimp, crabs, mullet, pinfish, pigfish and mud minnows. They are just as eager to take artificial lures as well. Captain Myers recommends using a D.O.A. Baitbuster or 1/4-ounce shrimp.
Alternatives: On the St. Johns River in the Geneva area, rising water levels draw the large spawning catfish out of lakes Jessup, Monroe and Harney into the deeper bends of the river. Captain Tom Van Horn of Mosquito Lagoon Charters says that both channel and blue catfish up to 30 pounds are common during this time. The captain’s preferred bait is fresh dead shrimp fished tight to the bottom.
Tarpon are arriving in Boca Grande Pass and anglers can drift live squirrelfish, pinfish, shrimp or crabs at various depths through the pass with the current.
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MSRP: Pricing starts at $22,195.
The 186 VLO measures in at 18 feet 9 inches with an 89-inch beam. The boat is built on a fiberglass, foam-filled hull and weighs in at 1,450 pounds and can hold a payload of 1,320 pounds. Maximum room is devoted to rod and tackle storage and fishing deck. VLO comes with a cus-tom-built, single axle trailer with submersible lights, a swing jack and a swing-away tongue.
The YUMphibian creature bait has two small swimming arms at the top, a pair of longer curl tails at the end, and two big “flappers” at the mid-point. Pitch it, flip it, or work it deep. Customize by pinching off appendag-es to create less water disturbance for finicky or pressured fish. 4 1/2, 5 1/4 and 6 inches in 10 color options.
Suzuki’s two new four-stroke, two-cylinder portable outboards have a compression reduction system for easier starting. The 20hp tiller model weighs 97 pounds the eletric-start model weighs 106 pounds. Single overhead cam, four-valve engine with Suzuki’s Lean Burn Control and bat-tery-less electronic fuel injection. Built for running in skinny water, both motors come with five tilt pin positions and 15- or 20-inch shaft.
Shakespeare’s new Micro Series Combos provide lightweight actions and are suited perfectly for panfish. They come in spinning and spin-casting models with high-quality components and each is spooled with Stren monofilament.
Ranger Boat is introducing a line of aluminum boats called The Tourna-ment Series. There are three models:
• RT 178 sports a 17-foot, 8-inch bass configuration.
• RT 178C has a similar platform (17 feet, 8 inches) but designed for crap-pie and multispecies angling.
• RT188, an 18-foot, 8-inch bass de-sign rated for 115 horsepower.
Rapala is hoping the new Scatter Rap Series lures and their “evasive action” will be as popular as the original “wounded minnow” style action that the company is famous for. The new lure has a “Scatter Lip” that creates an evasive, erratic, aggressive sweep-ing action. Ideal for multispecies gamefish, the Scatter Rap Series is available in 14-16 classic and new color patterns. Baits 5- to 9-feet deep.
YUM’s F2 MightEE Worm is 10 1/2-inches long, has an arrowhead shaped bulge toward the end and is made for big bass. Because the worm tapers to a smaller circumference before blow-ing back out to the bulge, the tail sec-tion wags back-and-forth in the water with each breath of current.
On-the-go anglers will find a lot to like in Plano’s new Flex ‘N Go Tack-le Satchel. It features adjustable built-in storage with a deep bin on one side and framework for the pair of swap-pable Plano 3600 StowAway boxes on the other, each Stowaway held with a flexible strap.
Honda Marine’s BF250 outboard is a 24-valve 3.6-liter V6 that uses varia-ble valve timing and lift electronic control (VTEC). Programmed fuel injection delivers the precise amount of fuel and air to each cylinder for easy starts and instant throttle re-sponse. 20-, 25- and 30-inch shaft models.
MSRP, $18.95 per pair.
The original Gear Grabbar is a unique way to hold lures and tools at the ready in boats. But the new Lure Hangar is a step beyond. This is a 12- by 16 1/2-inch plate,m ade to mount on your gunwhale, that holds 16 or more lures. There’s enough room for a selection of jig, plugs, topwaters or whatever other baits you want to hang.
Triton’s 21 TrX measures 21 feet and features a 95-inch beam. The bow has a 20 percent larger fishing area than last year’s model. A bow panel is ready for flush-mount electronics up to 12 inches, and has an organizer for pliers and baits. Stows 24 rods in the bow, 10 more in the center locker and another 14 in the port side. tri-tonboats.com.
MSRP,Package of 12 Juice Worms $3.49.
Designed by Boyd Duckett, the new Havoc Juice Worm gives anglers more action which produces more strikes than any other worms on the market. The slim ribbed 8-inch body has a long, flexible ribbon tail that produces a unique swimming action. 20 colors.
G-Loomis’Jig and Worms Serie GLX rods offer sensitivity to feel the bite and the power to control the fish. GLX models feature Fuji Titanium SIC guides, along with a new proprie-tary reel seat and split-grip handle configurations.
Crestliner’s VT19 has a .100 gauge aluminum hull, is 19 feet long with a 91-inch beam. Rated for 150 horse-power and has a top speed of 60 mph. 1,085 pounds and a maximum pay-load of 1,300 pounds. An elevated starboard console has a windscreen, switch panel, gauges and in-dash Lowrance depth finder. 30-gallon aerated livewell. Motor Guide trolling motor.
If you wade when you fish, Fish-N-Hunt Pro Gear designed a Tackle Tote Vest that to keep gear accessible but dry when you’re standing in deeper waters. It’s adjustable, sturdy, has lots of pockets and a modest pricetag.
MSRP, Jacket $249.99-$269;
Cabela’s Guidewear raingear now comes in four distinct series. Bass Angler (pictured) jackets and bibs are built with the tournament bass angler in mind. Xtreme parkas and bibs will help anglers fishing Northern lakes and rivers. Tidal jackets and pants offer lightweight, waterproof and breathable protection. River Runner jackets are perfect for wading anglers.
MSRP, $18,178-$22,950, no motor, trailer.
Carolina Skiff’s DLV Series is an unsinkable, all-fiberglass, modified-V hull designed for offshore or shallow-water fishing. The series has five siz-es, from the 17-foot DLV 178 with a 90-horsepower outboard to the 25-foot DLV 258 that powers up with a 200hp. High-speed bilge pump, cush-ion seat set, built-in cooler and plenty of storage.
Abu Garcia’s Revo SX baitcasting reel is now 25 percent lighter than before. The SX frame is crafted of a strong alloy while the handle sideplate are built with weight-reducing C6 carbon. Holds 145 yards of 12-pound mono.
Anglers who use jar baits know it’s a pain to carry more than a few. Berk-ley now has two Jar Bait Folders to keep the baits at hand and make them easy to transport. Model 1170 holds 10 jars. Model 1490 holds 16. Both have various pockets and a D-ring for pliers.
Berkley says they’ve improved a classic. New Trilene XL lines are now 10 percent stronger 20 percent more flexibility then they had been. Knot strength has also improved, said the company. Trilene XL has been around since 1972.